Opinions & Ideas

Category: John Bruton Page 1 of 25


The US has had a Federal debt limit since 1917.  I have no idea why it was ever introduced.

But it is only in recent times that it has been used as a sort of virility test between the parties.

A failure to lift the limit in the next week or so would have meant that the creditworthiness of the US government would be damaged, probably permanently.

It remains to be seen what the Republicans have gained through their threats and subsequent agreement in principle with President Biden. If it is voted through, this deal should mean that there will be no need to raise the limit before the next Presidential Election.

It is important to remember that the debts falling due to be repaid were used to boost spending , or to allow tax reductions, each of which were voted through by Congress.

 40% of the spending is untouchable.  This is so called Mandatory spending. This includes Medicare.

The US has the most expensive healthcare system in the world, yet much of that is excluded from consideration in the search for savings.

Social Security (pensions) is 35% of  mandatory spending,  It too is excluded from cuts

The focus has to be on so called Discretionary Spending, which comes to only to 28% of the total.

Half of Discretionary goes on the  miliary. That is hard to cut in light of the War in Ukraine. There may be room to close surplus military bases in the US itself but no member of Congress wants a base closed in his or her District.

The rest of Discretionary spending is mostly routine administration, including on agencies like Homeland Security. The deal between Biden and McCarthy seems to concentrate in this area. trimming the civil service  administration and agencies.

There is a distrust of “Government “, as such  ,among a section of the public.

 Republicans even wanted to “defund” the inland Revenue!

They also wanted to deny the authorities funds to pursue unpaid taxes

The United States needs a complete overhaul of it spending and tax policies. Tax deductions and shelters should be eliminated, and the tax code simplified. No category of spending should be exempt from economies, at least while the debt/GDP ratio exceeds 60% of the GDP. 

Given that the $ is the foundation of the global financial system, and its value under pins the world banking system, it is worrying that we will probably face another debt ceiling drama in a couple of years time.  


I took part in a two day seminar in Maynooth University discussing how Ireland fared as an EU member over the past half century. 

Many of the contributors stressed the economic benefits. 

These included a huge increase in the number of jobs in Ireland.  This happened  because much improved access to world markets flowed from EU membership. Tariffs and other barriers to trade were removed. Equally importantly EU membership  eased trade in and out of Ireland through having a single set of rules for goods and services.  

These rules 

  •    are made democratically through the European Parliament and Council
  •    interpreted consistently under the aegis of the European Court of Justice and
  •    enforced , in an even handed  and transparent way, by the European Commission.

They apply in all 27 EU states , and this has dramatically reduced the bureaucracy that would  apply if there were 27 different states each  with their own “sovereign” rules. This is something that is being discovered by the UK, now that it has left the EU.

The Single unified set of  rules in the EU has enabled Ireland to attract investment, notably from the US. 

EU funds enabled Ireland to modernise its educational system over the past 50 years . 

In my contribution to the discussion, I stressed that the benefits to Ireland of EU membership were much wider than economic. 

Prior to EU membership, Ireland was overshadowed by Britain, psychologically as well as economically. As an EU member we developed a much healthier relationship with Britain, with fewer complexes.

 That helped the Irish and British governments to work together to seek solutions to the problems in Northern Ireland. 

As an EU member we were able to defend our global interest, with the support of 26 other member states. 

Indeed one of the remarkable things about the EU over the past 50 years has been the EU’s tendency to find common EU solutions to problem, even where, legally, member states might be entitled to look for a “national” solution. This has been especially noteworthy in regard to issues like Brexit, the purchase of vaccines for Covid, climate change, and the response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. By working with other EU states, Ireland magnifies its influence.

I believe we, in Ireland, must work harder to understand the needs of all the other EU states. We need, as far as possible, to understand their languages and unique histories. Like us, each EU state has its own sensitivities. 



I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of my old friend, Hugh Byrne.

In 1969, Liam Cosgrave appointed the two of us as joint assistant Whips to our Chief Whip, the late Dick Burke. 

It was a delight get to know Hugh. He had a unique sense of humour and great popular appeal. He will be missed greatly by anyone who got to know him. I extend deep sympathy to all his friends and family



Notwithstanding the worldwide support for the Good Friday Agreement and the peace it facilitated, it looks as if the stalemate in the politics of Northern Ireland will continue.  This leaves an empty space. It deprives people of a forum to discuss their problems. It makes it harder for politicians even to meet one another.

If a political vacuum like this is not filled by elected politicians, it leaves the door wide open for those with undemocratic agendas, for people who are willing to use  murder to make themselves heard.

The immediate problem is the DUP boycott of the institutions, intended as a lever to change the Windsor Framework. But there are deeper problems. Unless these are addressed, this sort of thing could happen again in the future.  The Windsor Framework will not be amended.  That has been made clear. The UK and the EU have a lot of other business to do together, in face of grave global threats.

Perhaps there are other things that could be done that might reassure DUP voters. But, so far, the DUP has offered no concrete ideas in writing.

The DUP itself might itself also acknowledge that it is the exacting consumer and animal health protection requirements of the EU Single market that necessitate borders somewhere. The DUP  could usefully sketch out practical proposals , using the local knowledge its members have, for improving the operation of such borders, rather than  wait for others to do so.

 More generally, the impasse raises questions about the meaning of Ulster Unionism in the 21st century. It also demands creative thinking on the nationalist side.

Unionists self identify around their loyalty to the UK and to UK institutions.  But this “unionism” is conditional. Perhaps it could be said that its loyalty is to an idealised version of the UK, the sort of UK that existed in the 1950’s, rather than to the diverse and hyper globalised UK, that actually exists in the 2023.

Of course, unionists must focus on Westminster and on constitutional issues. The concerns they expressed about the protocol were genuine.

But they must also focus their thinking on younger voters in Northern Ireland , who self identify as neither unionist nor nationalist.

These are the swing voters who will determine the future direction of Northern Ireland. These swing voters may look for an entirely new dispensation for Northern Ireland, one that is neither nationalist nor unionist, in the binary and irreconcilable way in which that choice is unfortunately presented in the Good Friday Agreement.

Unionist leaders would best serve the interests of voters by working out ways to persuade non unionists to  contentedly accept arrangements within which all will feel secure and respected. That is a huge task, and a challenge to the unionist imagination. But realistic unionists know in their hearts that it the only way.

Rather than focussing all their energies on EU goods standards being applied in Northern Ireland, the DUP should be putting forward much broader intellectual, political and economic arguments. They should be working for arrangements in which unionists, nationalists   and voter who are neither can all feel secure.

  To achieve this, Unionism would have to present itself in a completely different way, emphasising symbols that the entire community can embrace , rather than symbols that repel some.

This would require a huge infusion of self confidence in unionism.  It would be uncomfortable for the “base” of the party, but the base will never deliver a majority

  At its core, the conflict is about Identity. Identity is not a simple idea. It is about far more than politics, territory or sovereignties.

Can we not build a shared identity to which all the people of Northern Ireland could subscribe?

Identity is, of course,  includes history and aspects of it of which we  feel proud.

But, every day, we write some new history.

 I believe identity can be cultivated in two radically different ways.

 It can be built on the basis

  •         of rivalry with the “other” community, or
  •         on the basis of shared achievement.

Some good work can be done at community level, but it is difficult to have shared achievements,  at least at  political level, if the institutions  of governance are not  up and working.

 “Shared Achievement” is the best way to build a shared identity.

 The forced choice, in the Belfast Agreement ,between the two fundamentally contradictory aspirations ,union with Dublin or union with Westminster, works against the building of a shared identity. We must move on from this.

The parallel consent rules in the Assembly should be changed. Giving extra weight to the votes of MLAs, who have chosen one or other of  the two contradictory aspirations, is not the best way to protect minorities. In fact, it oppresses the middle ground minority.

As I have said, unionism has a lot of difficult thinking to do.

Nationalism may also going down a corridor that leads to frustration.

By putting all its energy into looking for a border poll, nationalism is setting up a conflict which it may not win. There are signs that Sinn Fein is beginning to see this.

Gerry Adams told a reporter from the Currency magazine recently, that

“Irish unity is not a 50% +1 equation. Unionists will need to buy in too”

This is a welcome and important statement.  Unfortunately. it is not the way the Good Friday Agreement is framed.

The Agreement provides for irrevocable Irish unity to be voted through on a 50%+1 basis. It will be interesting to see what the current Sinn Fein leadership, and the SDLP, say about the outworking of Gerry Adams idea and the rewording of the Good Friday  Agreement that it would require.

Finally, we should remind ourselves of the unrealized goal of the Belfast/ Good Friday Agreement…..reconciliation and trust.

Here we should remember the importance of symbolic gestures.

 When I was Taoiseach in 1995 I organised a Commemoration at the War Memorial in Islandbridge to commemorate the end of the second World War, and the Irish who had died in that war in British uniform. Sinn Fein sent a representative, Tom Hartley.  That was an important gesture.

 So also was Arlene Foster attending the Ulster  Gaelic Football  final in Clones.  We need more gestures like that from all sides.

Perhaps when the Local Elections are over, the two governments  and the parties should think about events and activities  , independent of politics, that could promote reconciliation and thus create emotional space for political compromise.


I wish to express heartfelt sympathy with her husband Tom, with her two children and with her colleagues in the Labour Party on the death of Niamh Breathnach.

She was a Minister for Education who made a real difference to the lives of Irish people, and the benefits of her work endure to this day, notably the abolition of third level fees and the upgrading of Colleges of Technology.

She was an empathetic colleague at the Cabinet table and took  full account of the views of others.


Brexit is not the only problem challenging the integrity of the EU’s single market.
Last week the European Court of Justice(ECJ) ordered the Polish government to stop appointing new Judges.
In December the Venice Commission, a body set up by the Council of Europe (which is independent of the EU), said that elements of the reform of the judiciary being undertaken by the present Polish government 

“ bear a striking resemblance with the institutions that existed in the Soviet Union”

One of the authors of that report was the distinguished Irish barrister, Richard Barrett, who worked at one time in the Irish attorney General’s office.
The EU is a system of rules and the EU can only survive if its rules are fairly and uniformly enforced by the courts of the 28 member states.
The European Union is a common market precisely because it has a common system for

  •  making,
  •  interpreting, and
  •  enforcing

common rules that apply directly to the citizens of its member states. These common rules are interpreted, in the first place, by the national courts in each of the member states. So the integrity of national courts is vital for the EU.
This issue lies at the heart of the  difficulties the UK is experiencing, as it tries  to leave the EU,  still enjoy the benefits of the EU’s common market for goods, but without taking part in the common system for making, interpreting, and enforcing the rules of the  common market.
In a very different way, this same issue is at the heart of the disputes, between the European Commission and the governments of Poland and Hungary, about the independence of their judicial systems.
If one is living or doing business in Poland, the only way one can get one’s Common Market rights is by going, in the first place to the Polish courts. This course should be open to you, whether you are  a Polish citizen or not, and whatever political opinions, or status vis a vis the  government of Poland.
The EU insists that courts be independent so that everyone can enforce their EU rights, as equal EU citizens, anywhere in the EU, at all times.
 This rigorous insistence on the rule of law is one of the reasons many European countries want to join the EU, so that they can get the EU seal of approval for the rule of law in their county, and thus be attractive to overseas investors and other visitors.
 I visited Serbia recently , and heard that country’s Prime Minister, Ana Brnabic, stress that accession to the EU was the number one priority for countries in her region. She said that the rule of law and transparent administration, demanded as preconditions for Serbian membership of the EU, are  crucial to winning foreign investment and access to cheaper finance for Serbia.
 So, if the Polish courts were to be allowed become politicized, and were perceived to no longer be  objective in all circumstances in interpreting EU law, and Poland  still tried to continue to enjoy all the privileges of EU membership, that would damage the EU as a whole, as well as Polish citizens. It would discourage investment in Poland. Worse still, it would remove part of the reason for the existence of the EU…the rule of law.
The European Commission started proceedings against Poland under article 7(1) of the EU Treaties over aspects of the restructuring of the Polish judiciary. It was on an application to it by the European Commission, that the ECJ ordered the Polish government to stop appointing a large number of new judges to its Supreme Court in recent weeks.  The ECJ feared the new appointments might politicize the Polish courts.
 The Polish government is able to propose this large number of new appointments because it is compulsorily retiring up to 40% of existing judges, on the basis of newly introduced upper age limits.
 The well founded fear is that it will replace these compulsorily retired judges, with judges sympathetic to the views of the present government. The age limit will not, indeed, be applied uniformly. The government will be able to grant discretionary extensions to some judges, presumably those whose judgments it likes.
This comes on top of a merger of the offices of the Minister for Justice and the Public Prosecutor. This merger creates a fear that prosecutorial decisions will also be politicized. The independence of the DPP’s office in Ireland was one of the important reforms made in Ireland in the 1970’s, and it has been carefully protected by successive Taoisigh since then. 
The Polish “reforms” also provide that the President of the Republic, not the court itself, would establish the rules of procedure for the Polish Supreme Court, determining which categories of judge would hear what sort of case. Again this is unacceptable political interference.
In the Venice Commission’s report, coauthored by Richard Barrett from Ireland, the Commission concluded that the Polish government’s proposed mechanism for an extraordinary review(and possible reversal) of past judgments was

 “dangerous to the stability of the Polish legal order”

and said it was “problematic”  that the mechanism is retroactive,  and allows the reopening of cases decided  before the proposed law was to be enacted. This is an understatement.
The Venice Commission concluded that the proposed legislative and executive power to interfere in a severe and extensive way in the administration of justice

“pose a grave threat to judicial independence as a key element of the rule of law”.

It is very important for the EU that the Polish government realizes that it is not enough just to have free elections. A country cannot enjoy the benefits of EU membership, or of democracy, unless it respects the rule of law which is enshrined in Article 2 and Article 7 of the EU Treaties.
The credibility of the EU, and the integrity of the EU Single Market, is at stake in Commission’s  dispute with Poland, to an even greater extent than it is  with the UK’s attempt to “have its cake and eat it” on trade!


The Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, warned last week that in  respect of  the War in Ukraine

 “if things go wrong, they could go horribly wrong”

 and could eventuate in a full fledged war between NATO and Russia.

This is an alarming statement from a man who is not given to alarming statements.

While this is a war of aggression by Russia, the aggression was  driven, at least in part, by fear. 

Russia feared being encircled by NATO and EU countries, that were hostile to it. Yet these same countries  had clamoured to join NATO because of their fear of Russia.

 For its part, the US   pushed the expansion of NATO into central Europe,  because it feared a China/ Russia alliance dominating the Eurasian land mass.

 My direct experience is that security issues dominate diplomatic thinking in Washington DC,  in a way that they do not dominate thinking in Brussels. 

The loss of life that has already taken place as a result of the Russian invasion is enormous. The physical infrastructure destroyed by Russian missile will take 10 years, and tens of billions of euros, to replace.

There are 8 million Ukrainian refugees in EU countries, and that number is bound to increase. The EU is directly helping a country at war, something it never did before in its 70 year history.

 The war could widen. The possibility of Russian forces using Belarus as jumping off point for a new front in Western Ukraine is being discussed. This would bring the fighting much closer to NATO members, Poland and Lithuania. It could set off a chain reaction.

The preparedness of EU countries for such a wider war is not great. EU countries have significant and well equipped forces, but getting these forces to the front, where they would be needed, is something for which Europeans rely on America. Airlift capacity is a major European weakness.

 The road and rail systems in Europe have not been designed for the swift transportation of heavy military equipment. 

There is a lot of duplication and waste in European armies. 

Between them they have 170 different (national) weapons systems,  whereas the US, with a much bigger military, has only 30 different systems.

 Meanwhile the weapons that have been supplied to Ukraine from European stocks have not all been replaced. Money has been allocated but orders have not been placed.

The war has penetrated every aspect of daily life in Ireland. 

The dramatic increase in food prices, and in the price of inputs necessary to produce food ( fertilizer and energy),  is a direct consequence of the Russian invasion. Over 10% of the world population is already facing hunger. The FAO estimates that the number of people facing “acute hunger” has multiplied 2.6 times since 2019. 

Wheat prices will stay at 250 euros per tonne for the next two years, as against an average of  175 euros per tonne over the previous 20 years. The price increase for cereals since 2004 has been almost twice that for meat and dairy.

The world is facing an escalating, war driven, food price crisis.  What can Europe do?

I would make a few suggestions to the EU

  •  It should reconsider the policy of subsidizing leaving arable land lie fallow. 6 m hectares of land are lying fallow for this reason
  •  It should not encourage the use  of land , that could produce food, to produce biofuels. 9m hectares are currently in use for this purpose
  •  It should encourage farming systems that maximize the efficient conversion of sunlight into consumable calories. 
  •  It should discourage food waste. 17% of food is wasted , mostly by house holds,  because of  over purchasing and poor meal planning.

Meanwhile a concerted effort must be made to identify the fears that are fanning the war like atmosphere in the world today. While it may be impossible to do business with the current regime in Moscow, Russia will still exist when the war is over. The West needs to think through the sort of post war relationship it might have with a Russia that was willing to respect the territorial integrity of all its neighbours.


Latest predictions suggest the Republicans will narrowly win control of the United States House of Representatives but that Democrats will have a one seat majority in the Senate.

This is a significant win for President Biden because many expected a large Republican victory in both Houses of Congress.  That said, the Democrats seem to have lost their majority in the House, which will make it harder for the Administration to pass its favoured legislation.

 Counting is continuing in many places and there will be a run off election for a Senate seat in Georgia. Having won Senate seats  in Arizona and Nevada, Democrats have a Senate majority, even if the run off in Georgia does not go their way.

 It is not surprising that the Democrats lost some ground in the House of Representatives. In the past half century, the party opposing the sitting President has made gains in the Mid Terms three times out of four.

The 8% annual rate of increase in the cost of living in the US also drove voters towards the Republican Party. Inflation is wiped out some of the advantage Democrats should have got from record rates of job creation, and from the passage of some important infrastructure legislation. On the other hand, the abortion issue increased the turn out among women voters and this worked to the advantage of Democrats.

 While voters may rank inflation as their number one issue, it is unclear what Congress can do about it. Indeed some of the fiscal stimulus, given by Congress last year to mitigate the effects of inflation, may have actually over heated an economy that was already running up against capacity limits.

 Not for the first time in history, anti inflation measures have probably added to inflation.

 Donald J Trump played an outsized role in the Republican campaign

He personally endorsed individual Republican candidates in 200 individual races. These candidates did not do particularly well.

  It appears that Donald Trump can mobilize parts of the Republican base, some of which may not have voted at all in past elections.  But meanwhile he has driven away centre ground voters by his divisive rhetoric.

While he has suffered a setback last week, Trump is a formidable, spontaneous, and instinctive campaigner, who gives a voice to deep seated anxieties and prejudices shared by many Americans.

 His ideas will probably shape the Republican message in the 2024 Elections. That would hearten President Putin of Russia. It would encourage him to persist with his war of attrition in Ukraine.

 The bulk of the military aid to Ukraine has come from the US, rather than from Europe, even though Europe has more to lose from Russian success in Ukraine.

President Biden has said he intends to run for a second term. If so, we can expect a Republican majority in the House to launch hostile enquiries into his administration, which will absorb a lot of time unproductively. Already to legislative output of Congress is half what to was 30 years ago.

Rather than seeking a second term, President Biden might be better off seeking to promote his legislative agenda for the next two years, and  devoting time to healing the deep ideological divisions that are weakening the Democratic Party.

A change of control in the House will  lead to some modest changes in US Farm policy.

Climate change mitigation will take a lower profile, but commodity price supports will continue, as will nutrition support programmes for poorer families, which provide a market for US farm products. Indeed more than half of the so called US “Farm Budget” goes on nutrition supports for poorer people living in urban areas.

 One area where Republicans will be conflicted is immigration.

The majority of US farm owners are Republicans. The Republican party nationally takes a hard line against immigration. But 75% of the hired workers on US farms are immigrants, and half of these are illegal.

If Republicans were to implement their rhetoric on immigration, many farms would have to close their present operations

The new Republican Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee will probably be Glen Thompson for Pennsylvania. Interestingly, he does not come from a farming background. He worked in the health sector before being elected to Congress in 2008.

The Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee will be Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat. She is Senator from Michigan, and a career politician, standing for election for the first time while still in college, and has served at every level of government.

The results of the Mid Term elections have been so close that neither Party has a mandate for radical change, which may be reassuring for America’s allies.

RIP Brigid Hogan O Higgins

I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of Brigid Hogan O Higgins. I extend deep sympathy to all he family.
Brigid was a warm and engaging person and preserved  her youthful enthusiasm to the end of her life.
She was a brave and effective representative of the people of Galway in the Dail , carrying on a tradition established by her father . Had she had the opportunity to serve in government, she would have done so with the same spirit of selfless service, as he did as Minister for Agriculture.
Her family can be very proud of her


The Report of the Commission on Tax and Social Welfare contains some proposals that would have a dramatic effect in rural Ireland.

 The Commission, which reported last week,  was set up in fulfilment of a commitment in the Programme for government. It was given a very tight deadline to complete its work, and this may explain the gaps in its analysis.


The Commission was chaired by an academic. It had two civil servants in its membership, a tax consultant, an accountant, two members from economic research institutes, one person from a homeless charity, a businesswoman, one from an environmental charity, someone from IBEC…..but NOBODY representing agricultural or rural interests!

In addition, it received at least 28 submissions, mostly from other civil servants, state agency employees and academics but not one, as far as I can see, from the food and agriculture sector. This is surprising.


The terms of reference of Commission seem to assume that a steadily rising level of spending by government in Ireland will be necessary, equitable and inevitable.

Its task, as it saw it, was simply to

“ensure sufficient resources would be available to meet the cost of public services” as if that cost was a given that could not be altered.

More “resources” in the form of more taxes are simply assumed to be required.

 Deciding on the details of the tax changes the Commission recommends, as a consequence of this assumption, is to be left to elected representatives.

 The Commission offers them a long , and  unpalatable,  menu of tax changes from which they may  choose.

 But the Commission does not look at the expenditure side of government at all!

 Over the last fifty years, the functions taken on by government have steadily increased. Child care, Free GP services, subsidised elder care, and insurance against use of defective building materials, are examples of responsibilities being shifted onto the shoulders of the general taxpayer in recent years.

 We are also about to substantially increase our armed services, and  to increase benefits for those affected by the energy cost squeeze.

 Do we have an agreed basis for prioritizing these expenditures? I do not think so.

 Should a Commission have provided politicians with advice on how to prioritize spending, before advocating tax increases? Yes, I think it should.

A more balanced approach by the Commission would have started with a rigorous analysis of present and future spending commitments, on the basis of explicit criteria.

 Such an approach might not necessarily have meant the rejection of the Commission’s tax proposals, but it would have made them more understandable.  Ideally, the Commission should have identified different levels of government spending relative to GDP, and what each would have meant in service and taxation levels. 

Unfortunately the tight time limit set for the Commission would not have allowed the time to do an exercise like this.

In fairness to the Commission, it does suggest that our ageing population will mean increases in present levels of health and pension spending. It says adapting to climate change will cost a lot of money. Corporation tax revenues will fall from their presently artificially high levels.


The Commission report contains a number of unpalatable proposals .

Below are some examples

  • It says a tourist tax should be imposed on accommodation.
  •  PRSI should be extended to incomes below 352 euros per week.
  •  Pensioners should pay PRSI.
  • Capital Gains tax should apply to gains made on the sale of family homes.
  •  The Local Property Tax on houses should be increased and a higher rate of tax applied to second homes.
  • The lower rate of VAT should be increased and zero rate VAT restricted.
  • Parking spaces should be taxed and road use charges introduced.
  • It advocates this on the basis of what it calls the principle of equity.
  •  It defines equity as treating people in similar situations similarly.


But it  favours the infamous principle of “individualisation” in the income  the tax code, which does the exact  opposite. A taxpayer on 50000 euros a year with a dependent spouse and 5 dependent children is not in the same position as a single person on 50000 euros a year. But under individualisation they would be treated for income tax purposes as if they were in a similar position.


Turning to Agriculture, all land, including agricultural land remote from towns, should be subject to a Site Value Tax according to the Commission. This Site Value Tax would eventually be merged with Commercial Rates.

Obviously agricultural land. that had little prospect of being needed for housing or roads , would be valued and taxed at a lower level than agricultural land near a town. .

But land that had the POSSIBILTY of being needed for housing, might go up in value and thus  in tax liability, even though the housing development might never take place .

This proposal amounts to a reintroduction a centrally administer red form of agricultural rates.

Let us not forget that the Site Value tax would have to be paid  out of after tax income, by borrowing or by selling of  land or stock.

 I can see a Site Value Tax becoming the subject of a lot of litigation between landowners, the Valuation office and the Revenue.

 The Commission gives no idea of the likely rate of Site Value Tax….would it be 1%, 2%,  or 0.5% per annum? How might the rates be altered and by whom?

It is impossible to assess the social effect to this proposal without having answers to these questions.

As well as paying the is annual Site Value Tax, the Commission recommends that holders of agricultural land pay substantially more Capital Acquisitions Tax (CAT) on the transfer of the farm to their children.

 The CAT exemption limits for transfers to children would be reduced.  Again the Commission does not say by how much .

 Again the “experts” on the Commission leave that unpalatable task to the politicians!

 The present system, whereby agricultural land is valued at less than market value when it is being passed to a child, whose main assets after the inheritance are agricultural land, is also to be curtailed.

The inheriting child would have to be active in the business to qualify for the relief.

 Again, this additional CAT would have to be paid by the inheriting child by borrowing, by selling property, or out of income saved and not spent in past years.

The combined effect of these proposals, affecting farms, would reduce the value of agricultural land in Ireland quite substantially. The suggested restrictions on livestock production in the interest of reducing methane emissions will push land values down further.

It is unlikely that recommendations of this Commission will be acted upon in the near future. The government has enough on its mind.

 But they will be used in negotiations for the formation of future government. They may also be turned to if a Minister for Finance finds herself short in a particular year.

 Given that the farming community had no input at all to the Commission, their representatives should go through the report with a fine comb to be ready for the arguments of the future.

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