An emergency cabinet meeting will be convened later today after the Apple tax crisis caused a fresh split between Fine Gael and the Independent Alliance, with one junior minister refusing to confirm if he will remain in office.
The unplanned meeting had been scheduled yesterday morning amid Fine Gael’s continuing insistence Ireland cannot accept the €13bn tax return, and the Independent Alliance warning of the consequences of refusing the windfall.
Responding to the European Commission decision, Finance Minister Michael Noonan stressed his party believed there was “no economic basis” for the Apple tax ruling.
Describing the Brussels report as “bizarre” and “an exercise in politics by the competition commission which does not have responsibility for taxes”, the Fine Gael minister insisted Ireland must not accept the €13bn windfall and should appeal the findings to a European court.
Mr Noonan, whose views are based partially on the fact accepting the money would be akin to Ireland agreeing it is a tax haven and concerns it could force large employer multinationals to leave the country, denied the position was akin to “leprechaun economics”.
However, while he insisted he would be “defending citizens” by refusing to accept the money, he declined to say if he had full cabinet backing for his position.
“I will be proposing we appeal the decision and then it is for ministers, whatever their political colour, to state their opinion,” he said.
The position was repeated by Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe, who said the Government had 10 months to appeal the European Commission ruling.
However, despite the Fine Gael view, the five-strong Independent Alliance spent yesterday meeting with independent experts in the field as the TDs remain deeply concerned over any decision to reject the €13bn fund.
On Monday, the Alliance held a joint meeting with Mr Noonan in which it expressed anger at how Fine Gael had outlined the Government position without its involvement. The Alliance wants to examine all options, including forcing Apple to pay its bill.
Alliance member and junior minister for skills John Halligan said he “can’t say” if he will remain in office. “I’m not defending anything. It was extraordinary that they did owe that money,” he said.
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