Seanad debates

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)

I support Senators Cullinane and Sheahan in respect of what they each said. I suspect the Government is somewhat embarrassed with regard to this charge and is, therefore, not going to go out of its way to oblige people to pay it. The introduction of the household charge has had unintended consequences, particularly in the context of the tourism industry. In my constituency, where tourism is the mainstay of the local economy, a particular family has, over the past 30 years through its own efforts and without any State aid, built up more than half a dozen traditional Irish holiday cottages which it markets successfully. As a result of the downturn, like many other family-owned tourist operators the family is struggling to keep its head above water. Families like these are not corporations or limited companies. They will now be liable for this tax on top of the second home tax they have also had to pay because they are not exempt. They will be liable for a bill in excess of €2,000 to €2,500 on top of all of their other costs. This is not happening in County Leitrim only; it is happening in every part of the country, but particularly along the west coast of Ireland, where there has been a tradition of establishing traditional Irish cottages which appeal particularly to the continental European market.

I call on the Government to introduce an exemption. I have the greatest respect and affection for, and a personal friendship with, the Minister of State with responsibility for tourism who is a west of Ireland man doing a great job. I call on him to make representations to his Cabinet colleague, the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Phil Hogan, to introduce an exemption, with guidelines and strictures, for those involved in tourism to prevent this tax damaging an already fragile industry throughout the west of Ireland. It is unfair and morally wrong. As the Minister has stated it is not the most equitable tax which has been implemented in advance of the progressive tax he will introduce.

The tourism industry is already on its knees in certain parts of the west of Ireland and this will kill it off. All I am asking is that an exemption is introduced. It is in the Minister’s power to do so. The Minister of State with responsibility for tourism will come to the House and mention the great strides and great improvements being made. Yesterday we heard about the creation of jobs as a result of the reduction in the VAT rate last summer. This is all very welcome but why give with one hand and take away with the other? The Government cannot justify this.

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