Letter to AmericaMinister For (sic) Finance, Republic of Ireland
June 1, 2013Mr Seamus Noonan, Boston MA, USA
Mother Ireland is being crucified once again and she is hurting, to be sure. I was walking past the General Post Office on O’Connell Street yesterday when old Stephen Megan accosted me: ” What’s all this about Apples, young Michael?” he growled, he did. “Were not the good old earth apples our ancestors died for in the famine good enough for the likes of you? Don’t you remember what the Church says about the Forbidden Fruit and the Fall of Man? If poor Patrick Pearse had been standing over there in 1916 (he waved a finger at the entrance to the Post Office) reading out loud the Easter Proclamation, and he had known what you were going to do, he would have folded it up – he would truly – and gone back inside to post it to his mother. Then the British wouldn’t have executed him and all our beloved martyrs.”
And just last Sunday I was queuing up after Mass to speak to Father O’Leary (he is new to the Parish since Father Callaghan had to go away because of something we don’t talk about), when Mam and Da’s friend Mrs Flaherty started bawling at me at the top of her voice: “Michael Noonan. You are a disgrace to our country. Why did we have to lend all that money from the Yooropeeans? You were an Altar Boy, Michael Noonan (at this point Father O’Leary shuffled uneasily from one foot to the other). You know that the Church loves thrift – but you had to try to be like the Yooropeeans. That poor De Valera will be turning in his grave”. I thought of telling her that I had not been in the Government when the crisis hit, but she was looking like our mother used to look when our father came home from the pub, so I held my peace.
Talking of pubs (which is always a comfort, so it is), last month the barmaid was just pulling me my first pint at a nice little establishment in the centre of the City when a leprachaun-sized fella in a grey suit and coiffed hair holding a glass of red wine, tapped me on my arm and asked in an accent not from around these parts : “Qu’est que vous doing with a 12.5% tax rate, screwing the rest of us in L’Europe, cochon?”. I politely explained how a wine suppository could cure the little reptile’s constipation and went to join friends – but it was disconcerting, that it was.
Seamus, it’s just not fair. We are being made to suffer for all mankind. Well brother, I have decided that we are going to take action. You are going to be St Paul spreading the gospel and putting the record straight once and for all. Next time you are in Paddy O’s in Boston’s fair city, buy a round for all our brothers and cousins (I enclose a 50 Punt note as a Government contribution to the cause) and then sit them down by the fire and tell them Ireland’s tale of woe. Add a bit o’ the ol’ blarney and, if any of the Kennedys, Connellys or O’Neils are listening you can tell them that the next time they are running Washington, they should tell our story to the world:
When Ireland joined the European Economic Community in 1973 together with Britain and Denmark she had an economy that was worth bugger all. Her biggest export was people, who built the whole world except the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids in Egypt. One day someone had a great idea to lower the corporate tax rate to 12.5%. American companies competed with each other to swim across the Atlantic and set up operations here. Nobody could nail us on the tax rate because we offered it to everyone – Irish and others alike. We were willing to pay the price of less welfare payments because we had been raised by the Fathers and Sisters not to expect much. Of course, there were other reasons those companies chose Ireland. There were lots of the Irish in America and, when we were sober, we spoke something resembling the same language. This got up everybody’s nose in Europe but the only concrete response was the French building Euro Disney.
In 2008, when the financial crisis hit, the Irish government’s finances were healthy. Our Budget Deficit was manageable as was the Debt – GDP Ratio. What was not healthy was the private housing market where the banks were overexposed. We should have remembered our Bible lessons and what happened to the tables of the money changers in the Temple. Not wanting to leave the banks to tumble,the government rescued them – and that left the government totally buggered. So they had to take a loan from the EU (usury is, I confess, a dreadful sin) and impose austerity – which was the nostalgic fun part for most of the population. Unlike other crisis countries, within 2 years Ireland was proudly back on track.
So everything was starting to chug along beautifully when, last week, some brightsparks in Washington started asking Apple questions. In fact, the gentlemen were very polite to Apple, praising it for its iconic status in the US economy. But, their largesse did not extend to poor Ireland. We were flayed mercilessly for tempting the little Innocent with Government-backed tax schemes that brought the tax rate down from the lofty 12.5% to 2%. There was talk of Double-Irish structures (believe me Seamus, the only Double-Irish I know is a 12 year Bushmill’s Single Malt – and very good it is too) with companies registered in Ireland but not resident there and subsidiaries that shared American research and development costs.
Tell me, Seamus, was this not the hypocrisy that the Church tried to exorcise from God’s Earth? Ireland, a country with a legitimate 12.5% tax rate being used by Americans taking advantage of all the vagaries of OECD guidelines and idiotic US tax law – and it was our fault! Look across Europe at their special R&D rates and Finance Company rates and Heaven knows what else.
Seamus, it is time for us to act. Starting spreading the pints. The spirit of 1916 is back!
Your loving brother
P.S. You couldn’t see your way to picking me up a new iPhone from the local Apple Store the next time you’re there, could you?
P.P.S. The characters and events in this letter are fictitious. I do not have a clue if the Minister For (sic) Finance has a brother, had parents or, most notably, what (if anything) he actually said to that Sarkozy look-a-like in the pub.