President’s tax claim ‘not a political intervention’

Tánaiste Joan Burton has denied that President Michael D Higgins crossed a constitutional line by opposing large-scale tax cut promises, after one party said his remarks were an endorsement of their policies.

President Higgins took issue with the varied promises being made by parties to cut taxes if put elected.

In what some saw as an unprecedented intervention, he questioned whether it was possible to have a “decent society” and at the same time lower taxes to secure “short-term benefit”.

His comment came after Fine Gael promised to abolish the universal social charge for everyone, while Labour said it would remove the tax for low and middle- income earners.

Fianna Fáil has promised to reduce the charge for workers, while Sinn Féin said it will ensure anyone earning under €20,000 does not pay it.

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President Higgins said his comments did not pertain to any one political party. However, they were seized upon by the Social Democrats. Co-leader Róisín Shortall said her party had not promised any tax cuts ahead of the election. She said the President’s comments reinforced her party’s core message.

“There is a clear choice to be made,” she said. “Do we want an Ireland of US-style tax cuts where vital public services are run down or do we want to take a more long-term view and construct an inclusive and fair society by investing in essential infrastructure and quality social services?”

The Green Party also said Mr Higgins’ remarks are a reminder to voters that the election “should not go to the highest bidder”.

Ms Burton said that President Higgins had not crossed a constitutional line. His remarks did not amount to “political intervention”, she told Newstalk’s Lunchtime show.

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