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12 September 2016

Gerry Adams' 'take the money and run' call over 11bn Apple tax case shows up his total naivety

US giant’s tax ruling is a major talking point in Ireland for many, including Gerry Adams
US giant’s tax ruling is a major talking point in Ireland for many, including Gerry Adams

I am no fan of Gerry Adams, but sometimes he makes me laugh. He achieves that only unintentionally of course, for the pompous and self-righteous make poor comedians. They can, however, often be unwittingly funny, especially if one has a sufficiently black sense of humour.

Mind you, I didn’t manage a smile on August 31 when he retweeted from People magazine: “Today we remember with sadness! FROM THE ARCHIVES: The Shocking Death of Princess Diana, 19 Years Ago Today.”

Considering every serious student of the IRA believes Mr Adams was on the Army Council in 1983 when it authorised an attempt on the lives of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, that’s a bit tasteless.

But he did raise a smile from me in some of his comments over the contentious issue of Apple.

The Republic of Ireland is trying to make sense of the recent ruling announced by Margrethe Vestager, the European Competition Commissioner, that Apple owes it £11 billion.

Although that sum would pay the cost for a year of the country’s health service, recognising that if it seems too good to be true it probably is, serious Irish politicians and 62% of the public supported an appeal.

The Irish are not mugs.

They are well aware that since the 1980s their prosperity has depended on foreign direct investment by large — usually American — multinationals. More than 130,000 often high-grade jobs are widely provided by such companies as Boston Scientific, Dell, Facebook, Google, Intel, Hewlett Packard — and Apple — thus doing wonders not just for employment but for the country’s image.

Ireland’s well-educated, English-speaking, EU workforce is attractive, but so too is its very low corporate tax rate of 12.5%, which Brussels — with its passion for uniformity — wants to get rid of.

The Irish see the Apple ruling as a means on the road to that end, and remember the story of the farmer who was lucky enough to have a goose that daily laid a golden egg.

Greed drove him to slay the bird, which then turned out to be no more valuable than any other dead goose.

There are other snags too about grabbing the money, not least that the US would like the tax for itself, and that the Commission has said that other EU countries could claim part of the tax if they believe that sales “could have been recorded in their jurisdictions”.

Even if the Irish Government obeyed orders, there would be every chance it would still have to spend fortunes and years on legal wrangles.

Ireland-EU relations are so tense people are beginning to whisper about ‘Irexit’, and honest public debate is a vital priority.

That’s tough for Sinn Fein, whose lack of principle has been even more than usually evident over the past several months.

Having been opposed to membership since before Ireland and the UK joined the European Economic Community in 1973, Sinn Fein did a U-turn for electoral reasons and opposed Brexit.

In the Republic that abandoned the anti-EU battlefield to the far-Left.

Now, as genuine anti-capitalists, People Before Profit and its allies are happy to demand the Irish Government take the money and run.

But Sinn Fein — which tries to portray itself as a credible future coalition partner in the Republic — was left floundering and unable to address the practical arguments.

So, from the blog of the always economically-challenged Mr Adams, we eventually got a tirade against world poverty, tax avoidance and various other wrongs that no Irish politician would dream of defending.

“Tax revenues,” he explained to the half-witted among us, “are the means by which public services are funded, by which we pay for social protections and from which infrastructure is developed.”

Ignoring all complexities, he says, the Irish Government should take the money and spend it fast.

For “Sinn Fein believes firmly in tax fairness — that means that every person and every company pays their fair share of tax”.

What’s more, “that has been our consistent position”.

Let’s ignore that the IRA defrauded both states on this island throughout the Troubles and beyond.

It’s only last February that Mr Adams’ great friend, that “good republican” multi-millionaire Thomas ‘Slab’ Murphy, was jailed for brazen tax evasion.

What can you do but laugh?

Ruth Dudley Edwards’ The Seven: The Lives And Legacies Of The Founding Fathers Of The Irish Republic, was published by Oneworld Publications on March 22.

Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards