The operation of the 26 County state as a haven for greedy tech multinationals and the super rich is being strongly challenged by the international efforts of whistleblowers and tax justice campaigners.
Revelations from the ‘Pandora Papers’, the work of whistleblowers and investigative journalists, have highlighted the stark inequalities created by the tax environment in Ireland, which has allowed large corporations to siphon away billions of international profits without support for the communities who contribute to them.
“As countries scramble for millions to fund health and social services, eleven trillion dollars are out of reach offshore,” said Sinn Féin’s Chris McManus.
“It reminds those who need reminding that our world is a viciously unequal place.”
In an address to the European Parliament this week, the Sinn Féin MEP pointed to the Dublin government’s role in perpetuating the inequality.
“My own country plays a significant role in this great cheating of our people. Global action to tackle offshore money and associated crime and tax avoidances is now required.
“As a cog in this machine of inequity, Ireland must get its house in order, start rebuilding our reputation not as facilitators to the hiding of billionaires’ capital but as a country with a moral conscience.”
Amid intense international pressure to finally act, the 26 County state announced this week it will formally being an end to its official tax rate of 12.5%. The move ends a 40-year-old strategy of undercutting other states on corporation tax which has seen tech giants such as Facebook and Google set up HQs in Dublin, but at a huge cost to global equality.
Speaking in the Dublin parliament, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the negotiations on global corporation tax have been about “about larger countries” trying to “get a larger share of the pie” and “taking it off us”.
“We had to protect our interests, seek guarantees,” he said.
Richard Boyd Barrett, of the left-wing PBP-Solidarity, described this as “scare tactics”.
“How do you morally justify [being] willing to die in a ditch” to have “a minimal increase” in taxation on “the absolutely staggering profits on some of the largest and wealthiest corporations in the world”, he asked.
“Workers paid 20% on average - and corporations paid 5%” tax, he added.
It is still not clear what will happen Ireland’s so-called ‘sweetheart’ deals which saw some corporations pay close to zero through secretive special tax arrangements.
Those double standards were again exposed this week by the news that Perrigo, a global pharmaceutical firm, had successfully had over 80% of its €1.64 billion tax bill written off by the 26 County state.
Aontú Leader Peadar Tóibín criticised the news.
“Once again, it’s one rule for multinationals and another for the Irish people,” he said.
“That €1.3 billion could have radically increased the capacity and number of beds in our healthcare service. Or that money could have been invested in social and affordable housing builds.
“Or these unpaid taxes could have gone towards helping Ireland recover from the pandemic economically – a pandemic during which business has been booming for big pharmaceutical companies.
“Once again this story is a sorry confirmation that Ireland is a cold house for its own people, but for the taking for big business.”