A Labour-Sinn Féin economic showdown is looming after Tánaiste Joan Burton claimed average families face a 7% income tax hike if they vote for the opposition party.
Responding to a series of tax measures designed to hit the wealthy elite and outlined at Sinn Féin’s weekend ard fheis, the Labour leader said the reality is that average families will be hurt just as much by the policies.
Speaking at an International Women’s Day event at the Merrion Hotel in Dublin, Ms Burton said that, despite Sinn Féin’s claims that the new taxes will only target people earning over €100,000 a year, couples earning half that will also be affected.
Citing the Sinn Féin policy to impose a 59% tax on those earning the figure — a 7% rise on the current 52% rate — she said unlike in the North, in the Republic the €100,000 benchmark will also include cohabiting couples as our tax system sees them as one “unit”.
While accepting couples can apply to be treated as individuals, Ms Burton said the policy has the potential to “damage” the economy and prevent emigrants from returning home.
However, Sinn Féin said the comments show “economic incompetence” and claimed Ms Burton is “running” away from her suggestion last week of a debate with Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald on the economy.
“In our tax system, a family, a couple, one of whom is a nurse and one whom is a garda sergeant, would probably earn over €100,000,” Ms Burton said.
“It’s misguided, damaging to economy, and will burden a lot of workers with significant income tax. Particularly the two-income couple… The couple he’s talking about, they’re going to enter the top rate somewhere around €45,000.”
A Sinn Féin spokesperson last night said the Tánaiste’s comments show “economic incompetence” and that “Joan Burton should know this as it is a policy that her party held before entering into coalition”.
The economic row came as Ms Burton again side-stepped calls for her to take part in a live TV debate with Ms McDonald on the issue.
Despite saying at Labour’s annual conference a week ago she is “happy to debate the economy with Mary Lou McDonald”, her opponent accepting the invitation at the weekend and TV3 reportedly offering to host the event, the Tánaiste yesterday refused to say if it will happen — other than in normal Dáil business.
“I meet Mary Lou almost every Thursday for a debate on the floor of Dáil Éireann, which is probably the best place,” said Ms Burton.
“I’ve just debated, as the leader of the Labour party, the leader of her party. She’s not actually a party leader.”
A Sinn Féin spokesperson said the Labour leader is “running scared from a debate”.
However, a spokesperson for Ms Burton hit back last night, saying “nobody knows what Sinn Féin’s tax proposals are because they keep changing them”.
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