Posted on 8th August 2020

Slane Castle

So this week I find myself in St. James’s Hospital. I’ve been doing my damndest to stay out of the place, most particularly in these Covid times.  The problem is you are not allowed any visitors.  Now I have been in isolation since early March, so you would think having more people around would help one’s sanity but the answer is No, because I miss my wife and I miss my home.  I just had to get that off my chest.

So the politicians are on holiday.  If Eamon Ryan takes a staycation, he will need a bus for all those advisors.  If Leo is going to embark on a tour of the provinces, he will need to set up a series of lake-side shots baring his chest.  His aide-de-camp can hold his jacket.  Simon Coveney meanwhile can swan around the countryside in his garda-driven car, making sure that all the rural pubs remain shut.  Our Taoiseach after his ritual swim should take some time out to sharpen up his presentational skills.  I’m afraid to say he even messed up his tribute to John Hume.

The truth of the matter is I wish this government well because the task they face is formidable but more than anything they need cohesion.  For starters I do not think the Tanaiste should play political games by giving the appearance of trying to put one over on the Taoiseach.  He will get his turn so he should give Micheal a break.  Does he not understand how coalition government functions ? That question should also be addressed to the Greens.  They simply cannot play fast and loose with government votes or this administration will collapse before the year is out.

Covid-19 presents an enormous challenge to the world but it also presents some very specific challenges for our Republic and the government are going to have to be very sure-footed to have to deal with them.  Take the issue of the recent aid package from the EU.  The Commission have embarked on a whole new fiscal adventure as for the first time they have raised money on the markets.  All well and good but former Fine Gael enforcer, now Trade Commissioner, Phil Hogan, wants to raise a levy on the tech giants based here to pay for it.  The very idea of the Commissioner raising taxes directly sets a very dangerous precedent.  Tax sovereignty is extremely important to us.  Our rate of corporation tax is a central building block to our economy. We are a small trading nation on the periphery of Europe and we must fight tenaciously to preserve any advantages we have acquired.  This is a very tricky issue because the tech companies have become too damn powerful and they are simply not paying enough tax.  They are now an integral part of the Irish economy and whilst I appreciate all the benefits that they bring in terms of employment and ancillary activity, I just wish they would make a larger contribution in the form of the tax that they pay.  When Apple won their case, with the full assistance of the Irish government, I quietly hoped that the company would put their hands into their pocket – wishful thinking.  The apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree.

Speaking of which, whilst in hospital somebody kindly gifted me a copy of Mary Trump’s book about her uncle, the US President.  She wrote it to expose him for what he is and because in her own words she “can’t let him destroy my country”.  All Americans should read it.

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