ONE of the delusions we embrace is that the age of deference is over. We cheer ourselves, even if we don’t always believe it, that, on achieving independence we no longer had to bend the knee to a brutish colonial master.
We, back then, believed ourselves a proud nation free to take our place among progressive republics.
How very disheartening it is then to be told that we have replaced the deference informing the relationship between the conquered and an old-fashioned, colonial ruler with one just as toxic and exploitative.
One where a negative investment decision can be as intimidating as a gunboat barrage.
Oxfam says Ireland is one of the world’s worst tax havens, ranking us sixth on a list of 15 offenders.
We are accused of being part of a corrupt system that, says Oxfam, facilitates tax avoidance on an imperial scale.
We are accused of being part of a system that cuts tax bills for the wealthy while the majority pay taxes but can’t rely on decent public services.
After all, what is the conscious provision of tax options designed to facilitate? Dreams beyond avarice and tragic deference?
Laughably, these concentration-of-wealth pathways are facilitated by a society that presents itself as a fair and decent republic.
The Department of Finance has unsurprisingly, rejected the charge: “Ireland does not meet any of the international standards for being considered a tax haven ... ” said a spokesperson, presumably with a straight face.
It may just be possible, but, hopefully not, that finance spokesperson has not heard of the European Commission investigation that found that multinational, multibillion-dollar Apple paid 0.005% in tax on its turnover in Ireland.
That spokesperson may also be in the dark about the Cerberus tax bill of less than €2,000 on profits of €700m on just one strand of that carpet bagger’s Irish property portfolio.
Maybe that official is unaware, too, of the special purpose vehicle “arrangements” highlighted in the Panama Papers that seem such an affront to even a sliver of tax fairness.
There are, as anyone who cares to see knows, many more examples.
The default response of official Ireland is that we are so very desperate for the jobs and investment foreign firms might bring that we must offer these seductions or risk seeing jobs — even if they are more likely to be short-term contracts or even zero-hours contracts — moved to a less demanding environment.
Are we so half-witted, so tragically ovine that we can’t compete with our European peers?
Is our exemplary record stretching across decades not enough?
Do we really need to offer something pretty close to a brown envelope with a harp on it to secure FDI?
Even if Oxfam are only half right, and even if the desperate-for-jobs argument is half right, this report paints a shameful picture.
It suggests we are dishonest, supine, a real barrier to progress and that we have no worthwhile social conscience.
It also gives a pretty good indication of why play-the-game politics are being swept away in one country after another.
This is not who we are. Let us quickly find a way and the courage to change and invalidate this dreadful accusation.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved