The government has been accused of “misusing” data protection rules and of “deception” in refusing to name lawyers paid over €7m to fight the EU's illegal state aid Apple tax case against Ireland.
While Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe did identify several law firms paid large sums to fight the EU tax case, he said legal advice prevented him going further because of GDPR privacy laws.
Furthermore, he said other EU countries would try and get their share of the €14bn in alleged taxes owed if Ireland lost the case. Other EU ministers had asked him about the case, he explained.
Mr Donohoe said, while he would not identify individual lawyers paid by the government to fight the EU tax case, he would reveal the firms.
Over the past seven years €7.5 million, including VAT, has been paid for external services relating to the case, of which around €3.9 million relates to the recovery process.
This includes all legal costs, consultancy fees and other associated costs. Fees were paid by the Department of Finance, the Revenue Commissioners, the NTMA, the Central Bank of Ireland, the Attorney General's Office and the Chief State Solicitor's Office.
Of the total, legal fees amounted to over €7m. Mr Donohoe said amounts to fight the Apple case were paid out, including VAT, to firms William Fry (€3.2m), McCann Fitzgerald (€523,000), PwC (€611,000), Baker McKenzie (€148,000) and Hogan Lovells (€3,900).
Separately, amounts paid to external individual barristers - who were not named - has amounted to €2.8m.
Sinn Féin's Pearse Doherty accused the government and the minister of “hiding” behind GDPR rules by refusing to identify lawyers paid to fight the case.
“The data protection and information commissioners have laid bare the Minister's deception. There are no rules which would prevent him from releasing the information he is now withholding.
The Government is misusing procedure and deliberately misinterpreting rules in order to hide its true intentions. GDPR is meant to protect consumers.
Meanwhile, Mr Donohoe outlined how other EU member states were waiting in the wings to come and seek part of the €14bn allegedly owed in back taxes to Ireland if the government lost the case.
“Our country would face demands from many members of the European Union and beyond for what they would perceive as their share of that fund."
He also said that other EU finance ministers had raised the Apple case directly with him.
“They have raised it with me and want to know its status.”