Transparency is an obligation - Secrecy is sure to stir suspicion

Transparency is an obligation - Secrecy is sure to stir suspicion

There are few things as patronising, as undermining in a we’re-all-in-this-together democracy as being told that citizens may not know how public funds are spent.

When any such case involves international tax, unknown legal professionals earning unknown fees in a setting spiced by a culture of secrecy and deference the affront moves from patronising to the unacceptable and provokes justified suspicion.

Yet, that is the reality Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe suggests we embrace in the €14bn Apple tax appeal. He has “emphatic” legal advice which prevents him naming individual barristers or their fees.

Even in a country pock-marked by the failures of professional self-regulation and all too familiar with tribunals’ fees bonanzas this is more than bizarre — it is simply wrong. That Mr Donohoe’s department is in conflict with the Data Protection Commissioner on this issue confirms that, a decision described as “dangerous” by PAC member Alan Kelly.

There is, as there often is, a simple solution, one that does not require new legislation.

Anyone supplying services or goods to the State must sign a waiver, accepting that their fees and identity — personal not corporate — may become public knowledge.

No signature, no deal, which is just an extension of the argument around our non-mandatory but essential PSC cards.

If it walks like and election issue, if it quacks like and election issue...

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