Many people in Ireland would be of the opinion that this place here - the bubble that is Leinster House - is a bit disconnected from the real world. No two recent issues emphasise that as much as the Apple tax issue and the NAMA scandal. Richard Murphy, a professor of practice in international political economy in City University in London also happens to be a director of the Tax Justice Network in England. After this episode broke and when Apple and the Irish Government decided they would appeal the decision that €13 billion plus interest would have to be paid to the Irish people by Apple, he stated:
Apple will, even if it will not say so explicitly, see itself as the representative of all those multinational corporations that have believed it their duty to arbitrage tax and other regulation to minimise their costs to supposedly maximise shareholder returns and to actually provide the basis for paying astronomical executive bonuses.
They have seen tax haven activity as an integral part of this process. Years of familiarity with the games that tax lawyers play has meant they have ended up thinking there is nothing unusual with headquarters companies that have no staff or apparent trade recording vast amounts of profit and paying no tax on it anywhere...
Ireland’s appeal is different. It is about the right of a political elite to so effectively capture a democracy that a place is not run for the benefit of the people of that jurisdiction but instead for the benefit of a small, wealthy, international elite and the companies that they manage, with which elites’ shoulders those local politicians want to rub. Ireland’s government will in this sense see itself as the representative of all tax havens and of those politicians who have such contempt for their electorates that they can turn down €13 billion of taxes.
What that means is that when these appeals happen, as surely they will, what will really be on trial will be globalisation itself. Globalisation is the market based expression of the ideology of the Washington Consensus. It was always intended to favour a few, increase inequality, buy favour wherever it could find it, capture legislatures for its own purposes when that was necessary and create spaces veiled in secrecy where the rule of law that applied to the little people could be circumvented by the few. This is precisely why tax havens had to exist: they are not an accident in their modern form. They are instead a deliberate part of a design.
How damning that is from a highly respected professor in England who is calling it as it is. There is no smudge or flowery language; just calling it as it is. When, in God's name, will we wake up and start calling things as they are? How long more will this Government take the people of Ireland for fools? That is what is happening.
The NAMA scandal is more of the same stuff. Last night's BBC "Spotlight" programme adds further weight to the need for a truly independent commission investigation into NAMA. What a contrast between the BBC "Spotlight" programme and our own State broadcaster, RTE, which is afraid of its life to go near the subject. What is going on? It is unbelievable. For anybody looking at the video last night, it was mind-boggling to see these bundles of cash passing hands. It was kind of scary. This person takes cash from a developer and prevails on his friend Ronnie, one of his best mates, not to enforce. Given that he had just got to know Miskelly, how many others had he done deals with? Republic of Ireland developers were enforced upon four times more than developers in Northern Ireland. Why does NAMA not tell us why? If he was arranging refinance, he must have known what the NAMA number was for the loan - a number which is supposed to be confidential and commercially sensitive. Who gave him these numbers? NAMA claimed he had no access to any commercially sensitive information. Who, in God's name, believes that anymore? How could this man be able to command so much money if he had no confidential information? Can anyone explain that to me, because NAMA is not explaining it?
It was insinuated in the programme that political pressure could be put on Dublin to reduce the price. I assure the House that the Project Eagle portfolio was probably sold for approximately €500 million too little. The Government was running around in a tizzy as it sought to investigate Pat Hickey and the Rio scandal that involved a couple of hundred thousand euro, but it does not want to know about hundreds of millions of euro in this case. I suggest that when we eventually get to the bare truth of the moneys lost by NAMA as a result of the manner in which it has operated, we will be talking about billions of euro rather than hundreds of millions of euro. Does the Government care? It does not want the €13 billion plus interest that Apple should be paying in tax. It does not want to know about all the money that went missing in NAMA. It does not want to know about any of the issues that have been raised.
While I accept that everybody connected with NAMA is 100% innocent until proven guilty, I suggest that enough questions have been asked and enough information has been brought to the table about what has been going on to require the Government to question its position on this issue. How in God's name could Fine Gael, which used to boast that it did things right, vote against having an independent commission of investigation into NAMA? How in God's name could Fianna Fáil, which pretends to be in opposition, pretend that all is well? The Labour Party is not even worth talking about. Nothing surprises me about the members of that party. I do not know why they have not joined Fine Gael. All of this stinks to high heaven. I do not believe for a second that the Minister thinks everything is okay. He is not stupid. The Government knows that everything is not okay. It is pretending that it does not want to know, or does not want to lift the covers. What is it going to do? It has spoken about protecting our international reputation, but I suggest our reputation is muck in Europe at the moment. I have spoken to several people in Europe this week about the Apple episode. They think we are nuts. Not only have we been complicit for many years as a tax haven, but we have also been robbing other jurisdictions of tax. That is what we do. We rob other jurisdictions of tax due to them. We have helped Apple to build up a bundle of more than €200 billion in cash outside the US while wondering why there has been an increase in inequality in the developed world. If those who can best afford to pay choose not to pay, inequality will rise further before the problem is solved.
I believe change is coming and rogue states like Ireland are going to be called to account. I do not think we are going to get away with behaving like this anymore. The Government says it is worried about this country's international reputation, but I wonder whether it has realised that huge investment funds have invested a great deal of money in property portfolios in Ireland. What will these funds think when they find out that some of the property portfolios that have been put together are the result of ill-gotten gains and malpractice within the NAMA organisation? What will the Government do when these international investment funds, which like to think they do things cleanly, find out they have got into bed with a crowd of rogues? Will it reduce their tax even further here? I have already written to the European Commission to make the claim and challenge the Government's real estate investment trust arrangement, which was introduced in the Finance Bill 2013. It is another form of state aid to investment funds that come in here. It is state aid. How in God's name is it not? They are going to pay no tax here and they have completely distorted the property market. Talking about property and the housing crisis, I remind the House that the Government intends to let NAMA build 20,000 houses at a cost of approximately €320,000 each even though the State, through the local authorities, can provide houses for less than €200,000 each. Does the Government think it makes more sense to let NAMA at it even though its name is dirt?