I want to start my contribution to this debate by repeating my support for the decision made by Cabinet last week to approve an appeal process by the Irish State in relation to the ruling by the European Commission in the case of alleged State Aid to Apple.
I do so not because I am in fear or in awe of any multinational company.
I do so because it is the right thing to do for the long term economic interest of Ireland.
It is right to defend our international tax reputation in the face of what we believe is an unjust finding by the Commission, which questions the implementation of law by the Revenue Commissioners, and suggests that wrongdoing took place when, in fact, none did.
It is right to challenge a finding that is retrospective in nature, suggests overreach by the Commission, and which we believe is unsafe in law.
And it is without a doubt right to challenge a finding that seeks to make Ireland the Collector General for Europe for taxes that, by the Commissioner’s own admission, may in fact be due to other countries.
Apple is a global company but Ireland cannot be a global tax collector.
THE DECISION MAKING PROCESS
I want to respond to the events of last week.
In the last Government, in which I was proud to serve, I heard the constant refrain from the other side of this House that decisions were not made in transparent enough a fashion.
For that reason, the Government met on two occasions last week, taking 72 hours to reach its decision, following consultation between Ministers and with the Attorney General.
This is entirely as it should be.
Despite the assertions of some, it was neither desirable nor possible to begin reaching a decision on how to proceed until we knew the sum involved, until we heard from the Commissioner herself on why she made her finding and until all members of the cabinet had been briefed.
For Fianna Fail to describe this process as “pathetic” does not do justice to the magnitude of this decision.
The days of incorporeal cabinet meetings rubber stamping vital and massive decisions are long gone.
If Opposition critics profess to believe in the New Politics, then they should recognise the need for inclusive debate and the allocation of a reasonable amount of time for decisions to be reached.
That is the sustainable approach.
Sustainability is what many people are ignoring in this debate.
Spending money we do not have, or money which we know cannot be collected into the future is exactly the approach that got us into economic mess of the end of the last decade.
It beggars belief that those who complained bitterly about the collapse in tax revenue on foot of the ending of the housing bubble are now standing up and saying we should take the Apple money and use it to spend on the health service or education.
Have they learned nothing?
This is not a sustainable approach.
A SUSTAINABLE ECONOMY
A truly sustainable approach is to continue to build a sustainable economy where our tax code is part of an economic policy designed to attract foreign direct investment.
We use this to support and interact with a critical mass of indigenous companies – large and small – that deliver jobs for our people.
And we use the revenues from this economic activity to support vital services, improve our infrastructure and invest where we need to.
Relying on one-off windfalls from large companies based on findings that we believe are wrong is not sustainable.
That is why we must appeal; that is why we cannot suggest to the people of Ireland that there is a magic pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Those suggesting such a pot exists are wrapping themselves in the flag of the European Union that they themselves have spent years castigating and attacking.
This view would be amusing if it were not mixed with an attitude that belittles the entrepreneurship and investment upon which our country, our economy and our public services depend.
This Government is charged with protecting the economy and I am charged with protecting the public’s money.
Let us now concentrate our efforts on continuing to rebuild our economy on a sustainable basis, for a sustainable future.