Varadkar says landlords 'should be treated like any other business'

Varadkar says landlords 'should be treated like any other business'

Update 10.18pm: Fine Gael leadership candidate Leo Varadkar has said the "punitive charges" against landlords must be reversed so they are treated "like any" company and allowed to "offset" losses against their "business", writes Fiachra O Cionnaith, Irish Examiner Political Correspondent.

Speaking at a grassroots event in Wicklow tonight, Mr Varadkar said in modern Ireland it is "almost a bad thing" to be someone who owns and rents out a number of properties.

He said landlords "really should be treated like any other business" in that "if you have a loss you can offset against your business".

During the same meeting, Mr Varadkar also said people who have vacant properties in areas with "house demand" should face extra taxes.

He said Ireland's income tax is "not competitive" and must be reduced, dismissed the "equality downwards" approach of left wing parties and said white collar crime can only be addressed "if there are convictions".

A day after leadership rival Simon Coveney raised the prospect of an "anti-corruption" agency, Mr Varadkar said there is "enormous and understandable anger" among citizens on the white collar crime issue and that "we need to see white collar crime in Ireland treated in the same way as the United States".

Mr Varadkar said there is a dedicated section in this area in the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement and the garda fraud bureau.

He said "I don't think they are performing to the level we would expect" and joked if criminals Do confess they only speak "to priests, not to the authorities".

Mr Varadkar said his controversial policy document plan published on Monday morning "does not supersede" the confidence and supply deal with Fianna Fáil, but gave no mention of the programme for Government with unaligned Independents and the Independent Alliance.

He said he does not understand why "every other western country" has a pension fund add-on system for State pensions and wanted to introduce this, and acknowledged while jobs have "recovered" poverty rates "have not".

Officials and Mr Varadkar said the meeting was not attended by local TD Simon Harris as he was "meeting the EU health commissioner".

However, Mr Harris' own Twitter account said the Dublin meeting ended an hour earlier, with the Health Minister instead attending a Simon Coveney grassroots event in Athlone.

A number of Fine Gael grassroots members raised pay rise calls by public service workers, warning they risked causing another recession, an issue Mr Varadkar joked hours after his strike ban plan that he did not want to speak about in depth "lest I be accused of undermining" pay talks which began today and which he said he is "confidence" will succeed.

In a lighter moment, another grassroots Fine Gael member raised Mr Varadkar's pension proposals and suggested he should consider a "special pension" for combative TV presenter Vincent Browne.

"The whole country would benefit," the grassroots member said to roars of laughter.

Update 9.15pm: Speaking at a rally in Athlone tonight, Minister Varadkar's rival for the leadership, Simon Coveney, has agreed with the proposals for putting limits on when workers can strike.

Minister Coveney says he regrets the timing of the comments, which come just as new national pay talks get underway, but he agrees with the idea.

Varadkar says landlords 'should be treated like any other business'

"I said earlier that I think that there are core public services that need to be guaranteed whether that's air traffic controllers, whether it's the armed forces, An Garda Siochána, and so on.

"I think we do need to provide some certainty around core public services that are essential to the functioning of a state," he said.

    Here are 10 of Leo Varadkar's policies:

  • To meter and charge for excessive use of treated water with those who have already paid to be reimbursed as soon as possible;
  • To have an abortion referendum in 2018;
  • Merge the USC and PRSI into a new single social insurance payment, rather than abolishing USC;
  • To reduce the high marginal rates of income tax;
  • A ban on strikes by public servants in essential public and security services where a legally binding Labour Court determination has already been made;
  • Nobody should pay more than 50% in income tax and social insurance;
  • To aim for full employment by 2019;
  • To reduce consistent poverty rates and child poverty rates to pre-crisis levels and then lower;
  • To increase subvention of public transport and rural transport;
  • To substantially increase capital spending, with a 10-year National Development Plan.

Update 8.05pm: Simon Coveney has said he agrees with proposals from his Fine Gael rival Leo Varadkar to put limits on when workers can strike.

The Social Protection Minister says people who work in vital sectors, such as security work, should not have the ability to walk off the job.

The comments have been criticised by trade unions, who say Fianna Fáil should not allow them to be implemented.

This evening Simon Coveney said he regretted the timing of the comments, which come just as new national pay talks get underway, but he agrees with the idea.

"I agree with Leo that there are, certainly in the Defence Forces and An Garda Siochána, in fire services and so on, we do need to have core services that are important to the security and the maintenance of the State," he said.

Meanwhile, unions have hit out at Leo Varadkar's proposal.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions says it will "meet strong resistance".

Congress General Secretary Patricia King said the idea was poorly thought out and could see Ireland in breach of a range of international treaties.

Earlier: Leo Varadkar wants to ban certain workers from going on strike.

His proposals for the Fine Gael leadership include a plan to make Labour Court recommendations binding on employers and workers in "essential services".

The plans come as the Government today began talks with trade unions on a proposed new pay deal for more than 300,000 public workers.

Elsewhere he committed to merge the USC and PRSI, to extend parental leave and make childcare more affordable, while making free education for children more of a reality.

He said Ireland would ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities this year.

Mr Varadkar said he would bring forward major infrastructure projects like Dublin Metro, the M20 between Cork and Limerick and motorway and dual carriageway access to the west and north-west.

He would also double the budget for arts, culture and sport over seven years.

In addition, he plans to reduce national debt repayments.

Mr Varadkar vowed to increase the state pension in line with inflation or higher and automatically enrol workers into a personal pensions scheme.

Launching his 'Taking Ireland Forward' policy document this morning, Leo Varadkar said: "People should no longer be inconvenienced by strike action in essential services. The Labour Court will be the final arbiter and will ensure that workers receive a fair response to any claim.

"This will not impinge on the right to strike until a Labour Court determination is made."

Varadkar says landlords 'should be treated like any other business'

He offered air traffic controllers as an example of a profession which would be affected by this policy. This kind of legislation could also have had an impact on last year's series of Luas strikes.

The Minister for Social Protection added that this provision would, "include emergency services where it is a matter of life and death."

The National Bus and Rail Union (NBRU) has criticised this proposal - describing it as "undemocratic" and "Tory."

Its Secretary General, Dermot O'Leary, said: "It seems to me that Leo is determined to set course on an anti-trade union, anti-worker policy.

"Whilst I'm not at all surprised with Leo 'Thatcher' Varadkar, I would be amazed and appalled if Fianna Fáil, through its Supply and Confidence arrangement, were to support such a draconian attack on workers in this country."

A Fianna Fáil Spokesperson told Newstalk.com: "Anyone would be right to be amazed and appalled if Fianna Fáil agreed to any such policy. This is an internal Fine Gael election issue and we will not be commenting further."

Labour leader Brendan Howlin has called on Mr Varadkar, the front-runner to be the next Taoiseach, to abandon this pledge.

Mr Howlin said: "The notion of outlawing industrial action by a cohort of workers should be anathema to anyone with even the most basic understanding of how trade unions can contribute to a healthy and vibrant society.

"Over the last five years, public sector unions took actions that recognised the difficulties facing the state. Public sector workers were not our enemy, they were at the heart of getting our country back on track. Their sacrifices deserve recognition, not vilification," he said shortly after the policy was unveiled.

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Workers' Rights, David Cullinane, also criticised the policy.

He said: "His daft idea would mean there would be no incentive for trade unions to use the labour court any more, as the benefits of an unenforceable recommendation in their favour would be completely outweighed by the injury of a statutorily enforceable decision that goes against them."

"Leo's ideas are there to appeal to the same out-of-touch Fine Gael base that thought 'keep the recovery going' was a winnable election platform," the Waterford TD added.

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