Axe the Tax before the Lights are Switched Off – BREEN.

October 23rd, 2009 - Pat Breen

Fine Gael’s Deputy Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Clare T.D. Pat Breen speaking during the Fine Gael Private Members in the Dail on Wednesday night appealed to the Government to axe the travel tax before the lights will be switched off at Shannon Airport.

Deputy Breen was reacting to the news that Ryanair are threatening to axe 75% of their services at Shannon if the Air Tax is not abolished. He said that “It is reported that Ryanair is threatening to pull 75% of its services out of Shannon Airport as it negotiates a new deal with the authority. It serves 27 destinations, so just imagine if Ryanair were to axe 75% of its services what that would mean for Shannon Airport, as regards jobs and indeed tourism for the entire region. The Government might as well turn off the lights if this happens, and then there is the threat from transatlantic services as well that are about to close their cabin crew bases at Shannon. These airlines, including EasyJet and Aer Arann blame the €10 travel tax for killing off tourism. I believe the Government should take note of what is happening in other European countries in relation to the travel tax.”

“Take the Netherlands, for example, which introduced a travel tax in 2008. It saw the detrimental effects the tax was having on tourism and axed it. I would appeal to the Minister of State, Deputy Calleary, as he is here tonight, to ask the Minister for Transport to get rid of this tax. It is causing untold damage in the regions and for tourism, generally, in this country. All the Minister has to do is to ask his counterparts with transport portfolios in the Netherlands, France or wherever these taxes were introduced to see that it is wrong and kills off tourism.”

“We should be welcoming people here with open arms. If the Government does not change its mind as regards this tax, it will not have to worry about tourists, because they will not be coming.”

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Fine Gael Private Members Motion – That Dáil Éireann calls on the Government to freeze all charges on businesses until 2012.

Wednesday, 21st October 2009

Deputy Pat Breen T.D.

This is a very good motion and it is timely. I believe it was the late President John F. Kennedy who said the time to repair a roof was when it was leaking. This Government has received numerous warnings to the effect that the roofs of many businesses in the country are not just leaking, but about to cave in. The clock is ticking for many businesses. Red tape, as Deputy Ring said, high rental costs, lack of credit and cash flow are among some of the problems that have forced many businesses to close down. On several occasions here I have cited the example of Parnell Street in Ennis where ten businesses have closed in the last 12 months and there are 20 more vacant on the street. The rapid increase in unemployment and the deterioration in the aviation and tourism sectors have dealt a hammer blow to the mid-west region.
Today it is reported that Ryanair is threatening to pull 75% of its services out of Shannon Airport as it negotiates a new deal with the authority. It serves 27 destinations, so just imagine if Ryanair were to axe 75% of its services what that would mean for Shannon Airport, as regards jobs and indeed tourism for the entire region. The Government might as well turn off the lights if this happens, and then there is the threat from transatlantic services as well that are about to close their cabin crew bases at Shannon. These airlines, including easyJet and Aer Arann blame the €10 travel tax for killing off tourism. I believe the Government should take note of what is happening in other European countries in relation to the travel tax.
Take the Netherlands, for example, which introduced a travel tax in 2008. It saw the detrimental effects the tax was having on tourism and axed it. I would appeal to the Minister of State, Deputy Calleary, as he is here tonight, to ask the Minister for Transport to get rid of this tax. It is causing untold damage in the regions and for tourism, generally, in this country. All the Minister has to do is to ask his counterparts with transport portfolios in the Netherlands, France or wherever these taxes were introduced to see that it is wrong and kills off tourism.
We should be welcoming people here with open arms. If the Government does not change its mind as regards this tax, it will not have to worry about tourists, because they will not be coming. European Commission President José Manuel Barroso visited Shannon Airport prior to the Lisbon referendum. He announced, funnily enough, that €23 million was to be made available from the EGF to assist the retraining and reskilling of workers who had lost their jobs, including the former Dell employees. However, the Tánaiste admitted to me last week that this funding has not been put in place. It has to get the stamp of approval from the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. Again I ask the Minister of State to appeal to the Tánaiste to put this funding on the agenda for the next Council of Ministers. It is extremely important that this money is fast-tracked so that people do not have to wait until 2010 for the retraining process to begin.
Foreign direct investment has had a significant impact on our economy over the last 15 years. However, the major share of employment has been indigenously created by, for example, the local shopkeeper, the hairdresser, the butcher and the publican. By their very nature such businesses make a big impact on local communities, yet many of them are closing down because of high costs and people going to the large retail stores.
Local enterprise boards, too, have played a significant role in assisting in the creation of local employment. I was surprised the McCarthy report recommended they should be abolished. They were established in the first place to fill a gap as regards support for local enterprise development, as identified in the small enterprise taskforce report. Since they were first established in 1993 they have assisted in the creation of 33,800 throughout the country, giving financial support to more than 900 new projects per annum between 1993 and 2007. They have assisted in job creation and the average cost per job is only €5,485. In order for them to continue to create employment opportunities and promote enterprise at local level, I believe such local enterprise boards, including the Clare Enterprise Board in my constituency, play an important role in job creation for businesses and we should be very slow to abolish them.
Chambers of commerce in Ennis, Kilrush and Shannon have long argued the need for reductions in rates and rents as well as for a freeze in local authority rates. In spite of pre-election promises by the Government that action would be taken and a freeze put in place for three years, no legislation has been enacted to review these charges. My colleague, Deputy Leo Varadkar, has consistently called for the introduction of such legislation. Before last June the Taoiseach promised to freeze local authority rates for three years. We in Fine Gael believe the freeze should be for five years. The ball is now firmly in the Government’s court. Because it has failed to meet its previous commitments I do not know whether it will deliver on this, either. I shall hold my breath.
The Government cannot expect the economy to recover if it continues to ignore the problems that are forcing small and medium-sized businesses to close their doors. The results of a recent survey conducted by Retail Excellence Ireland shows the true extent of the problems facing businesses if rent reductions are not made. More than 50% of the businesses surveyed pointed out that if rents were not reduced, between one and five people would be made redundant. Some 40% of retailers believed they could not survive if rent reductions were not forthcoming – with 30% of those worried they would go out of business within six months.
Small businesses are the backbone of the economy in every county. The Taoiseach recently opened a small business in my constituency, Clare Springs, which employs ten people, and will, hopefully, increase its workforce to between 20 and 30. It is managed and owned by Paul and Tom Conlon, who invested €4 million without any help from the State. That is an example of someone who identified an opportunity and saw it take off. I would urge the Minister of State to support the Fine Gael motion in the House tonight.