‘What The Minister Was Saying Is All Utter Balderdash’


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DAVOS-KLOSTERS/SWITZERLAND, 31JAN09 - Joseph E. Stiglitz, Professor, Columbia University, USA, at the Annual Meeting 2009 of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 31, 2009. Copyright by World Economic Forum swiss-image.ch

From top: Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton and economist Joseph Stiglitz

This morning.

On the Today with Seán O’Rourke show.

Fine Gael Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton, Anti-Austerity Alliance TD Paul Murphy; former IMF director Donal Donovan, and Irish Independent editor Fionnan Sheahan were on the panel to talk about the Apple tax ruling.

Later in the show, Nobel prize winning economist Prof Joseph Stiglitz spoke to Mr O’Rourke.

Grab a tay.

Richard Bruton: “The principle, that the Irish Revenue authorities ruled on in 1991 and in 2007 was a standard approach. The principle that they enunciated was that a company, based in Ireland, should pay tax on its Irish activities and that was the ruling that was applied but what the EU is trying to now used state aid rules to do is to say that Ireland should become the international policeman for dealing with worldwide problems where companies are seen to play one tax code off against another. Very specifically, in relation to the US situation as you know, they offer a deferral tax system where the liability for tax in the US, which is obviously legitimate ultimately by companies like Apple, where all their research and development goes on – they allow a deferral so that tax is not brought back to the US authorities. But the EU itself has recognised that this €13billion is not available to Ireland because the US, it recognises that the US has a legitimate interest in getting access to this tax revenue and, indeed, their deferral rules would see that revenue taxable in the US and Apple have said that so Donal [O’Donovan] is simply wrong. The [EU] Commission isn’t authoritative on this issue, they are seeking to break entirely new ground…”

Sean O’Rourke: “Well no, what they’re doing is using the rules on the single market which prohibit member states from tailoring special inducements to incur rich companies to locate operations on their soil and the very fact that we allowed Apple, and we connived with Apple nationally, not necessarily breaking any of our own rules, but we allowed them to use Ireland as the basis for this, effectively, non-existent headquarters – no employees, no activity, to put money offshore and to avoid paying tax. It stinks to high heaven and we’ve been caught out on it and maybe we should just accept that fact.”

Bruton: “No you’re wrong, Seán. Ireland has a substantial substance from companies like Apple, 350, 000 over all. In the case of Apple, it’s 6,000 employees and they have paid tax on their earnings in Ireland.”

O’Rourke: “But why do we allow, why do we allow the to pay virtually no tax on their worldwide earnings or 90% of them…”

Bruton: “We apply…”

O’Rourke: “Why do we facilitate that?”

Bruton: “Don’t talk me down when I’m trying to answer….”


Bruton: “The EU wants to make Ireland some sort of international tax policeman which would be entirely negative to our interests and so many countries invested here.”

Paul Murphy: “…This argument by Fianna Fáil and the Government is utterly disingenuous and dishonest. The idea is that somehow Ireland stumbled into this situation of being a tax haven and different companies are managed together in the different loopholes of different countries and they all just happened to set up in Ireland. It was designed to do that. That’s the point of the tax ruling in 1991. So it isn’t about the [EU] Commission now asking Ireland to be a tax policeman in retrospect, because in 1991 and 2007, a ruling was designed to say to Apple: we don’t mind if you come here and you set up Apple Sales International and Apple Operations Europe. And you have head offices that have nobody working for them whatsoever and you funnel through $22billion of profits a year, in the case of Apple Sales International and, don’t worry, we won’t charge you tax on it. So we didn’t stumble into this situation, it was a designed thing and now the Government is trying to like make things not clear because the Government has a real problem on it.”

O’Rourke: “Donal, you don’t often agree or nod when Paul Murphy is speaking but you’re nodding vigorously there.”

Donal Donovan: “Well, you know, you’re right, I don’t often agree with Joseph Stiglitz either but actually I do think there’s a great deal of truth in what Paul says. This is something that has not happened by accident. This is a long-plan strategy and we did remove parts of this last year, and the year before but we did so at the point of a gun. I mean Minister [for Finance] Noonan was quite right when he removed the ‘double Irish’ and his [inaudible] residency but he waited until he had absolutely overwhelming pressure arising for the US and elsewhere and public opinion. And I think we’ve been on the back foot of this, Sean. We have reacted when we’ve been pushed into reacting, there’s no doubt about it that we have not been proactive in earlier years in trying to change the situation. And really, it’s a much bigger issue than the technical question of the legal matters who approved what in 1991. Really this has become a political and moral issue. We’ve seen ever since the US Congress held hearings, we’ve seen it with Panama Papers, Lux Leaks, everything, our 26% [rise in GDP] figure is related to this. All of this, the world is changing and, again, I wouldn’t always agree with Fintan O’Toole on many things but, this morning, he said we have to be on the right side of history and we should get on the right side of history.”

O’Rourke: “So, Richard Bruton… if the situation is changing, and you’ve highlighted yourself how the Government had introduced measures last year, if the situation is changing, why don’t we sort of shrug our shoulders and say to Apple, ‘look, sorry guys, the world is moving along, you’ve got a massive cash pile, something in the order of, is $230billion, we have to take a sizeable slice out of it’, the rules have changed and maybe we’re not going to lose a load of jobs if we do that.”

Donovan: “Well I think that’s right because the arrangements that gave rise to this, you’re absolutely right, have been changed already so it’s not that we’re relying on this to continue in the future… we should do the right thing and make up for it.”

O’Rourke: “Could we not take that approach, Richard Bruton?”

Bruton: “No, because we have established in the OECD a process whereby these sort of reforms will be done on a collective basis, with countries acting together and that is the approach that has already brought the sort of changes we’re talking about where, the way in which companies can aggressively play one tax off, one country off another is being wound back. There is numerous examples of where that occurs in the treatment of interest, the treatment of capital, the treatment of company resident, the treatment of intellectual property, the treatment of deferral of tax and so on and what we have to do is collectively sit down and work out agreements that will be applied universally. What the EU wants to do is to make Ireland the international policeman – to go out and say to the US, ‘you should not be applying deferral system’, ‘you should be collecting money from Apple straight away’ so Ireland should go and collect that money….Let’s not forget that if the word of the Irish authorities, independent Revenue Commissioners, independent of Government, if that cannot be relied upon, on companies who have invested and employed 350,000 people in Ireland, up and down the country…”

O’Rourke: “But we gave our word and then showed we were up to no good. We were conniving with these guys to avoid paying tax…”

Bruton: “That is precisely what we will be fighting to appeal against. There is no, it is not the case that we were conniving with anyone. We made legitimate rulings with the Revenue Commissioners made independently and they offered their opinion and companies have made their decision…”

O’Rourke: “But to quote [European Competition] Commissioner Margrethe Vestager yesterday, if my tax bill was 0.05%, falling to 0.005%, I would think I would need to have a second look.”

Bruton: “But those are bogus numbers because what that ruling is saying is that the activities of Apple in the US, where they do all their research and development, their manufacturing in China, should be taxed, that tax should be collected in Ireland. There is no basis for that, the US authorities will collect tax from Apple on the so-called deferral system that they have and, as you know, this is hotly debated in the US, how they should reform that and whether they should have instruments to bring that money…”


Donovan: “I just want to say…if the Minister Bruton could say: when these rulings were issued in 1991 and 2007, and I accept that they were rulings by the Revenue, did the Revenue check with Brussels at the time, as to whether these rulings were, or would be considered consistent with state aid rules? Because if we went ahead and did them, and issued them without getting the OK from Brussels, then we can’t really complain if, later, Brussels, says: ‘well, no I’m sorry you did these rulings but they were illegal.

O’Rourke: “Minister?”

Bruton: “These are rulings on tax matters and the Irish authorities took a view that is absolutely common across tax world that you are taxed in the jurisdiction on the activities in your jurisdiction. The issue then around tax structures that companies have – that involves much more elaborate collaboration across the system and we’ve sent up vents to precisely address that, this process at the OECD…”

Talk over each other

Murphy: “Minister, you know you’re being dishonest there, you do. You know that the thing was set up to facilitate it, that’s the point of the tax rulings and I think the Government’s spin around this is designed to make it seem all so very complicated right.”

Bruton: “That is not the case.”

Murphy: “And the reality is extremely clear: one of the biggest, multinational corporations in the world didn’t pay tax to the tune of €13billion-plus. It’ll get close to €19billion when you add on interest to Ireland and we are owed that tax. Now, Government would like to make it seem. Yesterday they said, first of all, well, at least the Commission has given us a clean bill of health in terms of Google and Facebook, the Commission had to come out and say, ‘no, we haven’t, we haven’t looked at them’. Then, the Government said, ‘but sure even if we got the money, we could only spend it on paying down the debt’, the Commission came out and said, ‘no, that’s not the case, you can spend it on capital expenditure. And the Government has a major political problem – this is their bank guarantee moment..”

O’Rourke: “And this is my cue to bring in [Irish Independent editor] Fionnan Sheahan. Just speaking of the Government’s political problem. Do you think they’re going to give us a decision today based on Michael Noonan’s recommendation – an immediate decision to appeal?”

Fionnan Sheahan: “No. I think, as Donal has said, they will take time to assess the ruling. You said at the start, the Government’s decision was to appeal – that was half the government the other half was saying something very different. And if you look at the government’s handling of this: the European Commission versus our Government has been a bit like {Danish TV series] Borgen versus Ballymagash [fictional rural town in RTÉ’s Hall’s Pictorial Weekly]. We have Margrethe Vestager basically cleaning us out for an hour yesterday on the steps of the European Commission building, quite authoritatively setting out her case on the basis of the European Commission’s ruling and then we have Michael Noonan basically floundering around, talking about all folksy tales about seed potatoes and so on and so forth. Well, to give you an old folksy analogy to match that: she ate him without salt. And I think there are major questions about Michael Noonan’s handling of this entire affair over recent months.”

Meanwhile, later in the show, Nobel prize winning economist Prof Joseph Stiglitz also spoke to Mr O’Rourke, saying:

“I think they’re [the Irish Government] wrong [to appeal]. I think, it was an interesting discussion [above]. I thought, to put it frankly, what the minister was saying is all utter balderdash. The fact is that you were encouraging tax avoidance, you knew it, let’s not make any pretence about it. You got  a few jobs at the cost of stealing revenues away from countries around the world and that’s the kind of activity that has to be stopped.

Listen back in full here


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Last night.

On RTÉ’s Six One.

Minister for Finance Michael Noonan spoke to Brian Dobson about the ruling.

During their discussion, Mr Noonan said:

This isn’t a moral issue. This is a financial and a taxation issue.”

There you go.

Watch back in full here

64 thoughts on “‘What The Minister Was Saying Is All Utter Balderdash’

  1. Aidan

    “This isn’t a moral issue. This is a financial and a taxation issue.”

    That’s handy as Noonn has a utter absence of morals

    1. Andy Moore

      VAT, Excise point of sale tax . PAYE tax @ source, that’s 95% of Populace operate under such Rules why should Corporates be allowed defer there taxes until whenever the Sun don’t shine anymore ?? Noonanshall be an absolute Fool to leave Apple Et Al away with what amounts to bullying & Corercion !! Bruton’s Bro John was running State back then or ’94-’97 anyhows & supposed Ho-Chi Quinn was Finance I think ? Surely they knew which way the game was going to play ?? The Minister for Sport Shane Ross even knew FFS ? Apple pay- up or Go home to wherever !

  2. Tish Mahorey

    Fionnan Sheahan, Ireland’s Goebbels. His newspaper is the most pernicious and cynical citizen hating piece of propaganda out there.

    1. bisted

      …in fairness, Fionnan only says what he is told but it doesn’t look good for Baldy when the Indo and the FFers are saying it’s time to go…

  3. dav

    if only the blushirts would look after their own citizens even a fraction as well as they do the tax evading multinationals..

      1. dav

        they hate themselves, it’s the only explanation for what could be considered sociopath behavior.

          1. Rob_G

            “They hate us Dav.”

            “they hate themselves, it’s the only explanation for what could be considered sociopath behavior.”

            – I agree with people paying their taxes; I just think that you and Tish are a couple of 2016-outraged-internet-hysterics

          2. MoyestWithExcitement

            Because you weren’t getting “outraged” over tram drivers on 32 grand a year trying to get an extra 150 a week spread out over 4 years.

          3. Rob_G

            No, I was not; I merely held an opposing view to yours. I don’t tend to get outraged when reading the news (well, apart from massacres and things like that) – life is too short.

          4. Owen C

            That particular war will resurface then the Dublin Bus drivers go looking for the Luas Driver deal next month…

          5. MoyestWithExcitement

            “No, I was not; I merely held an opposing view to yours.”

            Ok. People complaining about misdeeds at the top are “Outraged” but when you’re sneering at the working class, you just have a different opinion. Alright so.

          6. Rob_G


            Moyest will see your outrage, and raise you a ‘shrill’.

          7. MoyestWithExcitement

            “Moyest will see your outrage, and raise you a ‘shrill’.”

            Yeah, an incoherent rant about a strawman is about what I expected back from you there.

          8. Rob_G

            I make fun of people for being internet-outraged, and you jump in feet-first in a lather of outrage…

            Moyest, you either have no sense of irony, or a very highly-developed one.

            Either way, I hope you enjoy your afternoon :)

          9. MoyestWithExcitement

            It’s been great so far, thanks. I particularly enjoyed how you spat your soother out when someone pointed out that you get just as outraged as the people you accused. That was quite funny.

  4. De Kloot

    You know what happens with all that lovely €13b that will come flooding in if we decide to take it? Well it goes directly into paying off our national debt. That’s locked in. Can’t be avoided. Now. When we start paying off our national debt? Who gets paid out first?! You guessed it!

    1. Donal

      No it’s not, not locked in at all, commission clarified this morning that it can be spent on anything

    2. MoyestWithExcitement

      Even if it’s used to spend on debt, it’ll free up €13billion that was going to be spent on it anyway. We’re still up.

      1. ivan

        Absolutely. If you won 15K on a scratch card and have a mortgage of 100K, then it’s not the daftest thing to fling the 15 at the mortgage because paying down the capital sum reduces interest payments, and no our debts, you’re talking a hefty chunk of change that’d become available year on year….

        Spending the 15K on sweets would be silly.

        1. Owen C

          13bn reduction in the debt probably ends up equating to 130mn in interest savings per year (on the assumption that the NTMA doesn’t issue the ‘next’ 13bn in debt @ 1% or so). So, yes, handy to have that money, but not exactly gonna move the dial massively on government expenditure.

          1. ivan

            Is that all? I’d heard reports where they were saying something around 450m or so, hence my point.

            And of course what I said was a simplistic example in that obviously if you’re on a tracker with low interest and can put away the 15K at a high rate, then obviusly you don’t pay down. I also didn’t take account of TRS.

            I stand by my point (for what it’s worth) that it’s not imprudent (if you can’t put the money somewhere to earn) to pay down borrowings and enjoy the dividend of

            a) more current expenditure money to play with and
            b) at least you’re somewhat less exposed if/when interest rates go up.

          2. Owen C

            Your point has merit. I’m simply suggesting the scale of the benefit not be overstated.

            The 450mn reduction is basic, but incorrect maths, i believe. They are taking outstanding debt of 13bn, at an average interest rate of 3.5%, and coming up with 450mn. But it doesn’t work like that – you can’t just buy the debt back or cancel it without paying some sort of premium to the existing holders. That would reduce down the 450mn to something more like what i suggested.

  5. goof

    whats the breakeven on number of firms to leave that would make taking the 19bill a bad trade? clearly not an easy number to figure out but im coming around to the idea that its a lot more than would actually leave if we take the money.
    as fintan otoole says too, the days of ireland being this corpo tax safe haven are numbered as pressure mounts from US and elswherre so lets take the money while we can. i cant see google et al upping sticks immediately on back of this given there huge human capital investment here .
    plus , all were asking is that corporations pay something closer to our headline figure of 12% than 1%. cant see them getting a much better deal eslewhere in an english speaking first world country…

  6. andyourpointiswhatexactly?

    I’m not a huge fan of Stiglitz. I seem to remember him advocating a split eurozone: pretty much a north/south divide though I guess we would’ve been repositioned downwards geographically. I also think maybe he advocated buying sterling a few years back as he thought the euro was going to collapse.
    He might be right on this: I’m just saying he can have some fairly out-there ideas sometimes.

    1. Owen C

      He didn’t think Greece needed to default. Got annihilated live on Newsnight by a hedge fund manager on this issue.

  7. Owen C

    @ Bodger

    Donal O’Donovan is the Irish Independent business editor and is in favour of the Irish government appealing the Apple decision
    Donal Donovan is the ex IMF Director who is against appealing

    You might correct above. Fierce confusing.

  8. Cloud9

    Incredibly complex legal/taxation/political issue reduced to government bashing by BS. So predictable..

    And no, I don’t know what to do either..

    1. manonfire

      cmon lads get in a huddle get and gay with each other, lets end humanity

      take that New World Order

    2. Kieran NYC

      “Incredibly complex legal/taxation/political issue reduced to government bashing by BS. So predictable..”

      Well that’s what AAA and SF are doing so of course BS are going to follow suit.

  9. manonfire

    FYI: Richard Bruton was the cfo of CRH during its ansbacher days in the early 90’s

    His brother John is in the trilateral commision, i would wager Richard is in it too

    1. Owen C

      CFO? I thought he was just an economist with them? And i thought that was in the late 70s/early 80s, not early 90s (he’s been a TD since 1982)?

  10. manonfire

    Nope CFO, he signed the cheques, and his tenure was from late 80’s to early 90’s unsure of dates, he was an economist with pj carrols

    1. rotide

      I know how much you don’t trust wikipedia so here’s a (still pretty vague in fairness) refutation for you.

      1. Owen C

        yeah, it suggests he stopped working in private sector in early 80s, and I cannot find any reference to him being CFO (or any other senior executive position) anywhere else.

      2. manonfire

        Its not that i dont trust it, it can be falsified hence approach with a pinch of caution, however if there are citations which wikipedia has in abundance than its trustworthy

        ” At the February 1982 general election he was elected to Dáil Éireann as a Fine Gael TD.[6] From 1986 to 1987 he served as Minister of State at the Department of Industry and Commerce. He was then appointed Opposition Spokesperson for Enterprise and Employment.”

        “After the 1992 general election, Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party formed a coalition government, which collapsed in 1994. Bruton then helped to negotiate the ‘Rainbow Coalition’ between Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Democratic Left. In that government his brother John Bruton became Taoiseach. Richard Bruton was given the highest-ranking Fine Gael ministerial position, serving as Minister for Enterprise and Employment.”

        Couple of years amiss there, im open to be corrected on this one as im personally finding it hard to corroborate my own assertion so if anyone has any concrete evidence against what i said im 100% open to it
        He wasnt a TD in late 80’s early 90’s though

        1. rotide

          From wikipedia:

          Teachta Dála
          In office
          February 1982 – February 2016

          Feel free to fact check that. I really can’t be arsed since I’m 95% sure wiki is probably right on that one.

          Of course this is all going to disprove your original assertion which you have yet to back up in any meaningful way.

          1. manonfire

            my above link which is also wikpedia so were both correct

            sorry struggling on the original assertion, like i said im 100% open to be corrected

            Ill keep at it


        1. rotide

          If i could find a badly made youtube video featuring some sub par graphics and stock footage and linking to a similar one about chemtrails, I’d link that.

          Unfortuunately, they seem to be in short supply when it comes to Mr Bruton.

Comments are closed.