Politicians ‘afraid’ to quiz likes of Apple

A 2013 Dáil sub-committee investigation into Ireland’s multinational tax laws refused a request from Opposition TDs to bring in companies including Apple, Facebook, and Google as it was “paralysed by fear”.

People before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett made the claim after the Government last week agreed to instigate a review of major corporations’ tax bills as part of its compromise deal to appeal the European Commission’s €13bn Apple tax ruling.

Mr Boyd Barrett told the Irish Examiner a similar review by the Department of Finance sub-committee on global taxation was hamstrung by a refusal to question major corporations.

The cross-party sub- committee was established in summer 2013 in response to a US Senate ruling on companies using countries such as Ireland to create “stateless” firms to benefit from tax loopholes.

On July 3, 2013, the sub-committee met to discuss the terms of reference of the review.

However, despite requests from Mr Boyd Barrett and Sinn Féin to include public debates with Apple, Google, and Facebook the plans were voted down.

Official sub-committee transcripts available at www.oireachtas.ie confirm Mr Boyd Barrett tabled a formal motion during the meeting “to invite into the committee to give testimony and answer questions representatives of multi-national corporations based here in Ireland”.

The motion said these firms should “include representatives of Apple, Google, Facebook, and other such corporations as the sub-committee may deem appropriate”.

His request was supported by three Sinn Féin TDs — Pearse Doherty, Mary Lou McDonald, and Brian Stanley — with Mr Doherty warning that to refuse would be like “having a bank inquiry without inviting the bank officials”.

Mr Boyd Barrett’s motion was voted down by 22 Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, and Labour TDs, among others. They included current ministers Paschal Donohoe, Simon Harris, Michael Creed, Heather Humphreys, and Dara Murphy; Fine Gael chief whip Regina Doherty; Fianna Fáil front-benchers Michael McGrath, Timmy Dooley, Thomas Byrne, and Seán Fleming; Labour’s Aodhán Ó Ríordáin and Kevin Humphreys; and former Independent and current Social Democrats TD Stephen Donnelly.

Mr Boyd Barrett last night repeated his claim that there was “an attempt to block a simple request”, while Mr Doherty warned: “There is the famous phrase, ‘who fears to speak’. We appear paralysed by fear.”

There were reports yesterday that the European Commission is examining “comfort letters” given by Revenue to some Irish-based multi-nationals, saying their tax practices would not be affected by 2014 rule changes.

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