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24 January 2008 Edition

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Michael Flatley, little people and taxes

THE infamous New York real estate developer Leona Helmsley once observed: “We don’t pay taxes; the little people pay taxes.” As one of the little people, I found Ian Kehoe’s story in the Sunday Business Post particularly infuriating. According to figures obtained from the Revenue, at least half of the top 20 people on the Irish Rich List are tax resident outside Ireland.
“John Magnier and JP McManus, the Irish horse racing tycoons, are both based in Geneva, as is Hugh MacKeown, the chairman of the Musgrave Group, the €4.6 billion Cork retail giant,” writes Kehoe.
Michael Smurfit, the packaging magnate, is the honorary Irish consul to Monaco, while dancer Michael Flatley also pays his tax in the principality. Billionaire financier Dermot Desmond officially resides in Gibraltar.
The issue of legalised tax evasion like this is something Sinn Féin was one of the first to raise before the 2002 general election, only to see it adopted as a pet project by Labour’s Joan Burton. But on the upside, Kehoe reports that the Revenue is beginning to stop turning a blind eye to this kind of goings on.
“The Revenue has now stepped up its efforts to ensure that tax exiles do not spend more than 183 days a year in Ireland. Flight logs and a detailed diary of their daily whereabouts must be handed to Revenue officials in the event of an audit. The tax exiles may also be required to produce credit card and bank statements, as well as their passport.
“The Revenue routinely visits the Irish homes of tax exiles to check if they are there, and it monitors private jets flying into Dublin and Shannon to ensure that records are correct.”
About time too.

FIGURES published in Monday’s Examiner about the use of the Irish language in the European Parliament make for pretty grim reading. Less than half an hour of Irish was spoken in the first full year since it was made an official language, working out at €13,000 a minute for the four interpreters sitting in two shifts while the parliament sits.
They need two, by the way, in case two MEPs are using Irish simultaneously. And this doesn’t include the three full-time translators working on documents at €243,000 a year.
Fianna Fáil’s Seán Ó Neachtain and Brian Crowley are the most prolific gaeilgoirí with Sinn Féin’s Bairbre de Brún a respectable third. In fairness to the Examiner their editorial avoids the easy option of putting the boot into ár teanga and makes the point that the low use of Irish by our elected representatives (it’s not great in the Dáil either) is a product of the low use of Irish nationally.
“Compared with the visible, audible and very contemporary revitalisation of Welsh, everyday use of Irish is at a far lower level than many would hope for.
“The review, by EU officials in 2012, which will decide whether the ‘official working language’ status can be sustained will be objective and without emotion. Maybe it is time we brought those qualities to bear on any proposals aimed at strengthening the position of Irish in our society. Otherwise it seems like nothing as much as another instalment in that great Irish tradition: jobs for na buachaillí.”

“THE lorry deposited a large number of stones and pebbles beside the waste ground and then two women were led to the spot wearing white and with sacks over their heads... [They] were enveloped in a shower of stones and transformed into two red sacks... The wounded women fell to the ground and Revolutionary Guards smashed their heads in with a shovel to make sure they were dead.”
When Pat Kenny’s read that out on last Wednesday’s RTÉ Radio 1 show from a recently-published Amnesty International report on the continuing practice of stoning women to death in Iran it probably shocked more than me into paying closer attention.
Eleven people, nine of them women, are currently under sentence of death in Iran for the ‘crime’ of adultery. Stonings can take up to 20 minutes before the victims are killed and if members of the public rounded up for the purpose refuse to participate in throwing stones, public sector employees are taken from their workplaces and ordered to take part.
Good radio interviews should shake you up and cause a noisy room to fall silent as people listen and this one certainly did the job as Kenny managed not to intrude himself too much into the story.

FINALLY, RTÉ TV’s The Panel on Monday night had Kevin Myers plugging the paperback edition of his autobiographical account of his time as a journalist in the North in the early 1970s.
When confronted with the accusation that he was “anti-republican”, Myers responded by observing that he was not anti-republican but rather “anti-violence”, showing he had clearly grasped the notion that the show is a comedy.
For this is the Myers who has served as cheerleader in chief for everything from the invasion of Iraq to the British warlords who sent hundreds of thousands of men and boys to their deaths in what was possibly the most pointless conflict in human history, the First World War. Let us not even get started about his misty-eyed reminiscences in the Irish Times’a An Irishman’s Diary about the RUC.

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