Bruton denies 'rift' due to Apple tax stand-off

A senior Fine Gael minister has denied there is any "rift" with the Independent Alliance, despite a second emergency cabinet meeting planned for tomorrow due to the Apple tax stand-off writes Irish Examiner political reporter Fiachra O'Cionnaith.

Education Minister Richard Bruton rejected widespread reports both sides of the coalition are polarised on the issue at a press briefing in Dublin this afternoon.

Speaking just 24 hours after a lengthy four hour emergency cabinet meeting on Wednesday failed to resolve the stand-off, leading to a second emergency meeting being called for tomorrow, the Fine Gael minister denied a "rift" has opened, instead describing the discussions as "very useful".

He said he expects Government to agree a united position on the issue at tomorrow's meeting, adding the protracted talks are "a perfectly valid way to proceed".

"I don't think there is any rift, I think what the situation is is that every minister wants to study the full [European Commission] judgement.

"We had a very useful discussion yesterday, I think that was very positive on all sides, and we agreed to resume those discussions on Friday having given everyone the time to study in greater detail the judgement.

"That's the right way to go, I think that's a perfectly valid way to proceed," he said.

Asked what is likely to happen at tomorrow's second emergency cabinet meeting in 72 hours over the Apple tax crisis, Mr Bruton said he is "very optimistic agreement will be reached".

He dismissed the European Commission's ruling that Apple owes Ireland at least €13bn - a figure that could rise to €19bn when interest is taken into account - as "just a case that's being made" and stressed it has not been agreed "in a final legal way".

"The European Commission has set itself up as prosecutor and judge in the execution of this, and that is certainly an unusual power to be taking on by the commission.

"The ruling was based on a misinterpretation of tax law. The truth is Ireland has always pursued a very clear regime... entirely in accordance with proper tax process and tax law. I have no doubt about that," he said.

Despite the Fine Gael minister's insistence there is no rift at cabinet, a position another senior party colleague told the Irish Examiner after Wednesday's cabinet meeting, the political fallout from the Apple tax crisis continued unabated yesterday.

In separate meetings, Independent TD and Children's Minister Katherine Zappone met with the attorney general to discuss the matter further for two hours this morning, while the five-strong Independent Alliance met with independent tax experts over the same issue.

The Alliance is specifically looking for both the early return of the Dáil next week to debate whether Ireland should appeal the €13bn Apple tax judgement or accept the money.

In addition, it wants Fine Gael to agree to review all tax situations of large multi-national firms in Ireland.

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