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Fine Gael senator’s speech taken from Irish Independent article

Catherine Noone’s speech on inheritance tax is largely similar to an article by Charlie Weston.

Catherine Noone
Catherine Noone
Image: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

LARGE PARTS of a Fine Gael senator’s speech on inheritance tax were taken directly from an article published in the Irish Independent the previous day.

Catherine Noone, who is a general election candidate in Dublin West, made a speech during the Seanad Order of Business on 11 June calling for a reduction in inheritance tax.

An analysis of the speech shows that at least seven sentences are either exactly the same or almost the same as an article about inheritance tax by journalist Charlie Weston which was published in the Irish Independent on 10 June. (See examples below)

Noone’s speech was written by another Fine Gael election hopeful, Dublin city councillor Noel Rock, who is likely to be the party’s general election candidate in Dublin North-West. He is the senator’s parliamentary assistant.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie today, Noone said she did not “knowingly read somebody else’s words”.

I believed that the points I was reading were from research that I had asked to be compiled on inheritance tax, rather than somebody else’s words. I didn’t knowingly do that. I wouldn’t knowingly have got up and read somebody else’s words.
I often raise matters prominent in the national media in the Seanad and I accept that the author should have been accredited in this case.

Rock declined to comment.

Fine Gaels Elections Campaigns Noel Rock with Taoiseach Enda Kenny during last year's local election. Source: Photocall Ireland

The speech noted that Ireland’s inheritance tax rate is the seventh highest among OECD countries and carried detailed examples of where it compares unfavourably to countries like the UK and Germany.

“Perhaps there is a case to be made for reducing the rate of inheritance tax, raising the level at which it kicks in or reducing the rate for interest on instalments. Certainly, it strikes me as rather punitive,” Noone told senators in the speech.

Some of the quotes in Weston’s article that are credited to others are passed off as Noone’s own words in her Seanad speech.

Here are several examples of where the speech is either exactly the same or similar to Weston’s article:

Example 1

Catherine Noone:

… the rate at which the tax is imposed is the seventh highest among countries that are members of the OECD. The tax kicks in here at a much lower value than other western countries.

Charlie Weston:

The rate that the tax is imposed at is the seventh highest in the countries that are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) And the tax kicks in here at a much lower value than in other western countries.

Example 2

Noone:

By way of example, in Britain the exemption from the tax is set at almost £450,000 for one category while in Germany it is €380,000. This report shows that compared with the United Kingdom, a person here will pay far more when she inherits.

Weston:

In Britain, the exemption from the tax is set at £325,000 (€444,816). In Germany, the exemption on inheritances is €380,000, the OECD says. Financial expert Karl Deeter, who uncovered the Tax Foundation report, said: “What the report shows is that, compared to the UK, a person here would pay far more if they inherited €500,000.”

Example 3

Noone:

In Ireland, the capital acquisitions tax is imposed at a rate of 33% on amounts over €225,000 for a son or daughter. The rate has soared from 20% in 2008 and the tax-free threshold has been cut in half.

Weston:

In Ireland the tax, called capital acquisitions tax (CAT), is imposed at a rate of 33pc on amounts over €225,000 for a son or daughter. The rate has soared from 20pc back in 2008, and the tax-free threshold has been cut in half.

Example 4

Noone:

Families are suddenly being hit with serious inheritance tax bills this year as rising property prices push them over exemption limits.

Weston:

Thousands of families here are being unexpectedly hit with huge inheritance tax bills this year, as rising property prices push them over exemption limits.

Example 5

Noone:

The reduction in the tax-free thresholds has resulted in even modest properties, particularly in Dublin, where house prices are higher, being hit with big tax bills.

Weston:

The reduction in the tax-free thresholds has resulted in even modest properties – particularly in Dublin, where house prices are higher – being hit with big tax bills when transferred from parents to offspring.

Example 6

Noone:

Many countries have recognised that estate and inheritance taxes are a poor source of revenue and some have eliminated these taxes altogether.

Weston:

“Many countries have recognised that estate and inheritance taxes are a poor source of revenue and eliminated these taxes altogether,” the report, entitled ‘Estate and Inheritance Taxes around the World’ and published in March this year, states.

Example 7

Noone:

It is worth noting that 13 countries have repealed inheritance tax, including Norway, which is hardly regarded as a tax haven.

Weston:

Thirteen countries have repealed inheritance taxes, including Portugal, Sweden, Russia, Hong Kong, Austria and Norway.

Read: Senator admits ‘Playboy’ speech was taken from Sunday Times column

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Hugh O'Connell

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