The Independent MEP for Ireland East, Nessa Childers, has called for complete openness and transparency about the operations of the Clearing House Group, the body of senior civil servants and financiers that lobbies government on behalf of the big banks and multinationals in Dublin’s International Financial Services Centre.
The MEP’s comments follow further disclosures that the Clearing House Group lobbied successfully for at least a dozen major tax breaks and concessions for big companies in the 2013 Finance Act.
Ms Childers said: ‘Every tax break or financial concession given to a bank or a multinational in the IFSC is paid for by either a tax increase or a cut in public spending for PAYE workers and people on social protection. We need to know precisely what these lobbyists are looking for, what concessions are being offered to them and the consequences of those decisions for other citizens. We cannot have important provisions of the Budget and the Finance Act determined through backroom lobbying by an unelected cabal of civil servants and financiers. This highly secretive process reduces the Oireachtas debates on the Finance Bill to a charade. I call on the Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan TD, to immediately publish full details of this year’s lobbying by the Clearing House Group so that we can have a proper public debate.’
The Ireland East MEP said it is not enough for the government to publish the minutes of meetings of the Clearing House Group. She said ‘The real lobbying is done in the sub-groups dealing with areas like banking, treasury, insurance and international assets and their minutes are still not published’,
Ms Childers also said there are wider issues relating to lobbying: ‘Through a Freedom of Information request last year, I discovered the extent of the international finance industry’s regular and direct access into the heart of the Irish government, to influence not only Irish domestic policy but also Ireland’s stance on EU policy.’