The Great Performer and Ireland’s corporation tax rise.
The Great Performer and Ireland’s corporation tax rise.
For the week that’s in it, today’s digest couldn’t have overlooked the party conference season and the Tory’s mass gathering. Who ever said that the silly season was the preservation of Christmas or indeed summer! Whatever you might think of him he was the tonic to the party faithful’s early evening gin and the pep they needed after 18 months of political upheaval. Boris surpassed himself with superlatives, the optimistic fun of it all was captivating and infectious. Even the most ardent Guardian columnists who spend their days shining a light on his failings admitted to being wholly amused. The enemies…Brussels, the French, Remoaners and others, were dismantled Houdini like right in front of the faithful’s eyes. And as for any misgivings on labour shortages, the failings of Brexit, fuel and food shortages, the energy crisis, inflation, and the yet to be delivered levelling up…. it was nothing that words couldn’t fix…. ‘high wage, high skilled, high productivity’ would be the way forward and would sort it all out! All pledge and little policy….more of a warm up act than the main performer. But then again style has long since usurped substance in politics, just think of poor old Gordon Brown.
But to be fair, Brexit aside, many of the issues that the UK government face are a microcosm of the bigger global picture and many governments are having to grapple with similar post pandemic challenges. The issue is that most have an opposition, and are being nailed to the pin of their collar. Not so in the UK, with the Labour party needing to go on quite a journey yet before they get their house in order. In the meantime, we can only hope for more than wit, charm and an upbeat tone with words turning into demonstrable actions, Houdini like.
As for ROI, after months of defiance, the Irish Government changed its tactics, and this week signed the Organisation for Economic Co–operation and Development’s plans to create harmonised tax laws. The change of policy came after intensive negotiations with the OECD on the proposals as the Government sought to change one small but critical line within the agreement. They sought the removal of the line ‘At Least 15%’ which the Government saw as a chance for larger nations to increase the rate at a late date. The agreement which Ireland now has signed up to will create a global minimum effective corporation tax rate of 15 percent for multinationals with revenues in excess of €750 million which is largely targeted at ‘big tech’ companies such as Apple and Google who have used Ireland as a tax heaven to increase their profits. Speaking on the announcement Paschal Donohoe said that the measures would impact “56 Irish multinationals employing approximately 100,000 people, and 1500 foreign–owned MNEs based in Ireland employing approximately 400,000 people”. The plan is scheduled for completion in October, and it’s hoped nations can go after their 15 percent tax from 2023. Given the change of approach, the Government is seemingly confident that Ireland’s offering will remain strong in the wake of the new tax rate and that the impact will not be as great as first thought. Or else they realised they were fighting a losing battle given that 140 countries worldwide had already signed up to the deal. Whichever is the case, only time will tell whether those big tech companies will be willing to stay in Ireland with this higher rate.
Update on Restrictions
• The Executive agreed a number of significant Covid relaxations on Thursday evening. Effective from 31 October, these include:
o 1m social distancing rule removed for hospitality sector and changed to guidance only.
o Opening of nightclubs, with people allowed to move freely around venues.
o The current limit of 15 people from no more than four households will increase to 30 people in total on October 14th.
o The restrictions on indoor dancing will be lifted.
o Audience members will no longer need to be seated when watching indoor performances.
o Large house parties and raves are still not permitted.
• The requirement for mandatory face coverings remains in place, as does the ‘work from home’ message.
Update on Vaccinations
• 2021’s flu vaccination programme will be the largest in NI history, as community pharmacies start their programmes amid warnings of a 50 per cent jump in infections as the “fragile” health service continues to struggle with Covid.
• Stormont Ministers have been told by officials that indoor seated venues that have introduced Covid vaccine/test proof entry requirements in recent weeks have seen a 99 per cent compliance rate among patrons.
Update on Education
• A single common post–primary transfer test is set to go ahead in November 2023 after an overwhelming majority of grammar schools backed it. Fifty–six schools have agreed to join a new company – the Schools’ Entrance Assessment Group (SEAG) – set up to run the common test.
• The Department of Education (DE) is to spend £100,000 on 1,000 carbon dioxide monitors to be used by school maintenance staff. A wider purchase of 10,000 monitors for schools depends on extra funding in the October monitoring round.
Update on Economy
• In the five weeks from August 29 to October 2, overall footfall across all Northern Ireland retail dwindled by 16.7 per cent, according to data from NI Retail Consortium–Sensormatic IQ. It comes as retailors issue fresh call to “spend wisely” when the high street vouchers begin arriving through letterboxes in the coming days.
• It will cost Northern Ireland £200 million a year to maintain the Universal Credit £20 a week boost which has been cut by the London government. The uplift was officially withdrawn by Westminster on Wednesday.
Update on Health
• Neurology services in Northern Ireland are “close to breaking point” with almost two–thirds of health professionals struggling to provide care. The report by MS Society found that although one in six people are living with a brain related illness, services are “severely stretched, underfunded, and overlooked”.
• Health Minister Robin Swann has expressed “profound disappointment” after Michael Watt, the doctor at the centre of Northern Ireland’s largest ever patient recall, was this week removed from the medical register.
Update on Brexit
• The EU’s Brexit commissioner, Maroš Šefčovič, will table four papers on Wednesday as to how the Northern Ireland protocol can be improved. Reports indicate this will include a proposed “national identity” exemption for British sausages from the EU’s prohibition on prepared meat from a third country.
Update on Travel
• 47 countries, including South Africa, Mexico and Thailand, are to be removed from Northern Ireland’s travel red list from 4am on Monday.
Update on Legacy
• A pension scheme for people severely injured during the Troubles has received 670 applications since it opened, MLAs have been told. The Troubles Permanent Disablement Payment Scheme opened in August following years of political and legal disputes.
• Four men arrested by police investigating the murder of Belfast journalist Lyra McKee have been released pending a report being submitted to the Public Prosecution Service. The men were arrested under the Terrorism Act by police earlier this week.
Update on Economy
• Ireland has agreed to join an international agreement establishing a minimum corporate tax of 15% around the world, ditching the low–tax policy that has led companies like Google and Facebook to base their European operations in the country.
• The Cabinet on Thursday discussed a proposal to increase the State pension age by three months every year from 2028. Under the recommendations, the pension age would reach 67 in 2031 and it would increase again by three months every two years from 2033 onwards.
• Doors have closed for the final time this afternoon at 88 Bank of Ireland branches around the State. The move, which will see BOI reduce its branch network by a third, was first announced in March.
Update on Government
• The Government has said it will send two representatives to a ceremony in Armagh marking the centenary of Northern Ireland. In September, President Michael D Higgins declined an invitation to the event planned to take place at St Patrick’s Church of Ireland Cathedral in Armagh on 21 October.
• Taoiseach Micheál Martin will meet Northern Ireland’s political leaders during a visit to Belfast on Friday. Mr Martin will visit the city for a programme of events, including an all–island climate event hosted by the Chamber.
Update on Health
• The number of daily Covid–19 cases in the Republic has fallen below 1,000 for the first time since July. On Monday 892 new cases were recorded, the National Public Health Emergency Team said. It takes the total number of confirmed cases to 394,519.
• A new waiting list plan, published by the Department of Health, states that between now and the end of the year, an extra half a million patients could come into the system and need care.
• Sage Advocacy has warned Ireland’s carer shortage may leave older people with no choice but to move out of their own homes, because they cannot access the care and support services they need to continue living independently.
Update on Hospitality
• Five concerts have been “sanctioned, planned and are going ahead” in Croke Park next year. It follows speculation that country music star Garth Brooks hopes to play five concerts there in 2022, despite planning only allowing three gigs at the stadium in a year.
Update on Environment
• Tackling climate change will need joined–up policies and investment on a cross–border basis, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said. The Irish prime minister joined Paul Givan and Michelle O’Neill at an all–island climate event in Belfast on Friday.
Update on Education
• Ireland been ranked second in the world for quality of life, according to a new UN study. The new Human Development Index places ROI second–highest in the world, up one place from 2019, for quality of life, which is based on health, education and income in each country.
• Hundreds of children did not return to school last year due to mental health and anxiety problems which experts say were exacerbated due to the pandemic. New figures reveal 346 children were approved for the receipt of home tuition due to mental health reasons and “school phobia.”
Update on Housing
• More than 10,000 are expected to attend a Mica brick redress protest in Dublin on Friday. Up to 5,700 houses across Donegal and Mayo are crumbling because of the presence of Mica, with campaigners demanding the government offer 100 per cent redress.
• Homeless charity Focus Ireland has called on the government to move away from polices that manage homelessness towards ending it. In its report, Focus Ireland said that it helped a record number of 1,829 households to avoid homelessness or find a secure home.