SOMETIMES THERE IS such a sense of entitlement among elites that they barely try to hide their privileges.
Take as an example the news that a private school will be established in Leopardstown, Dublin, by Rise Global. It will charge fees of €20,000 a year and the target market is the children of foreign company executives and the local rich.
By the time that students have completed their international baccalaureate – not the bog standard Leaving Cert – their parents will probably have forked out in excess of €100,000.
But why is former Education Minister, Ruairi Quinn, acting as a consultant to this venture?
Taxing foreign executives
Soon after coming into office in 2011, the Fine Gael-Labour government introduced an extraordinary change in taxation.
Foreign executives were allowed to write off €5,000 in expenses paid for sending their children to a private school from their taxable income.
The measure was so shocking that even the Revenue Commissioners raised serious concerns about:
how such a provision would be perceived among the wider taxpaying population, particularly against the background of cutbacks in education spending.
These concerns were brushed aside by a Cabinet that included Ruairi Quinn. Fast forward to 2017, and he is now acting as an adviser to a school that benefits from tax breaks his government introduced.
Does anyone think this is a little embarrassing?
Quinn was a Labour Party Minister and indeed a former leader of his party. The Labour Party once spoke a language of equality and social justice. Yet one of its key figures is supporting an elitist form of education.
But there is more to it. PWC functions as both an accountancy firm and a tax planning outfit for wealthy people. They have a little brochure which indicates that there are other advantages in Ireland for high flying foreign executives.
If you are a foreign executive who is earning over €75,000 a year, you can benefit from additional special tax reliefs. Under the Special Assignment Relief Programme you can write off 30% of income over €75,000 for tax purposes.
The PWC brochure informs its potential clients that:
SARP has been through a number of “face lifts” since its introduction in 2009. Recent enhancements would appear to be very positive for business and should make it more accessible than it previously was. The current version removes the previous earnings ceiling of €500,000, which was seen as one of the main shortcomings of the relief.
So our foreign executive can now avail of two tax breaks – one for having an income over €75,000 and the other for sending their children to a private school.
A staggering 30% of all income up to half a million euros can be written off for tax purposes and the school fees of private schools will be thrown in.
The State also appears to move with extraordinary speed to support an elite private school. Representatives of the school are understood to have met senior officials in universities and the Department of Education in recent months to discuss the plans. The IDA facilitated these meetings.
Planning records show that Minister for Education Richard Bruton has also backed the new international school.
Enough is enough
I recently attended an Enough is Enough protest organised by parents of children with special needs. Their main complaint was that the Irish State does not guarantee early diagnoses and support intervention for their children.
In desperation with the delays in diagnosis, many go the private consultants who can charge anywhere up from €350 an hour. It is often the only way, the parents claim, to get real help for their children.
After all the talk on the anniversary of the 1916 about “cherishing all the children equally” should we not stop the subsidies to company executives and start looking after children with special needs properly?
Kieran Allen is a senior lecturer in the School of Sociology in University College Dublin. His most recent book is 1916: Ireland’s Revolutionary Tradition (London: Pluto Press 2016).