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bad apples

With €13 billion, Ireland could build Metro North, Dart Underground and solve the homeless crisis

While any back taxes reclaimed from the multinational may need to be used to pay down our €200 billion national debt, it’s worth considering what Apple’s unpaid taxes would buy.

IRELAND COULD BUILD Metro North, Dart Underground, the M20, an M50 upgrade; extend the Western Rail Corridor and fix the homeless crisis for the €13 billion it has been told to reclaim in back taxes from Apple.

The EU Commission’s unexpectedly scathing ruling of Ireland’s tax arrangements with Apple has resulted in the unexpectedly large tax windfall, which could rise to €19 billion once interest is taken into account.

Every year, the Irish government spends around €55 billion in total – this includes education, health, defence, social protection, housing and the public service. The lot, in other words.

The ruling is expected to be appealed by the government (pending Cabinet approval) and Apple, the world’s biggest company – a process that could take 18 months to two years.

While any windfall must, under EU rules, be used to pay down our €200 billion national debt, even this could have a positive knock-on effect on Ireland’s ability to borrow for various projects.

It’s therefore worth putting the scale of the tax bill in context with the cost of various pieces of domestic infrastructure – whether they have been completed, delayed, or scrapped altogether.

1. Dart Underground: €3 billion

Dart Underground A map of one section of the Dart Underground, which was online at until last September. Irish Rail Irish Rail

Iarnród Éireann’s plan for Dart Underground in the capital would link Dublin Heuston and Dublin Connolly via subterranean commuter stations at Docklands, Pearse, St Stephen’s Green, Christchurch, Heuston and Inchicore.

It would also free up the huge bottlenecks at Connolly station, allowing continuous services from Kildare to north Dublin, and from Greystones to Maynooth.

Originally costed at €3 billion, it was scrapped last September by Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe – only to be resurrected by his successor, Shane Ross, who says it may still happen.

“The proposal for the Dart underground was put in the deep freeze in 2010 and it is now in the fridge,” he said earlier this summer.

“There is every intention of its being a project. It is being designed and kept alive and will certainly be eligible for EU funds.”

2. House the homeless: €5 billion

Rebuilding Ireland An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny and Minister for Housing Simon Coveney (right) and Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the launch of the Housing Action Plan in July.

The recent census results showed that there are 200,000 vacant houses in the country – or 259,000 including holiday homes. Almost one in every 10 (9%) dwellings in Dublin City are empty.

There are approximately 6,000 homeless people in Ireland, although many of them are members of the same family.

While many of the State’s vacant houses are already owned by local authorities, compulsorily purchasing 3,000 vacant houses at the average price of a house in Ireland (€215,000) would cost an initial €645 million.

The government, however, has pledged to spend €5 billion on social housing over the next five years as part of its housing plan.

3. Metro North: €2.4 billion

Cullen Martin Cullen, then Minister for Transport, launches the Metro North plan back in 2006.

One of the biggest pieces of infrastructure planned during the Celtic Tiger was Metro North, a mostly underground rail line which was to run between St Stephen’s Green in Dublin, Dublin Airport and Swords.

It was estimated to cost between €2.5 billion and €3 billion back in 2010, before being scrapped by the Fine Gael-Labour coalition in 2011.

Last year it was announced Metro North was back on track with a €2.4 billion price tag. The project, linking up Swords, Dublin Airport, Ballymun, DCU, and the city centre, is slated for completion by 2026.

4. A new hospital: €650 million

Children's hospital The proposed new children's hospital on the St James's Hospital campus in Dublin 8.

The new National Children’s Hospital, due to open in 2019, will cost €650 million.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan has said he will seek Cabinet approval to appeal today’s European Commission ruling, which although involves €13 billion being paid off our national debt, could conceivably free up other monies for public services in a knock-on effect.

Given the emphasis placed by John Halligan on health services in the south-east, and by Finian McGrath on disability services, it may be difficult for the Independent Alliance to back a challenge to the Commission ruling.

5. Many, many Olympic medals

Rio Olympic Games 2016 - Day Seven Pull like a dog: Ireland's Gary O'Donovan (right) and his brother Paul O'Donovan won silver in Rio while operating on a shoestring. PA Wire / Press Association Images PA Wire / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

The €13 billion might come in handy before the next Olympics in Tokyo, if Britain’s Olympic success in Rio was anything to go by.

Team GB’s unprecedented success was built on blood, sweat and sterling.

Due to the UK’s mammoth investment in sport over the last four years, each medal the Brits won in Brazil cost £4.1 million, or €4.8 million.

At the same ratio of cash-for-medals, €13 billion would equate to 2,708 Olympic medals for Ireland.

6. Another M50 upgrade: €1 billion

M50 Traffic trying to access the M50 from the N7 Naas Road.

The upgrade to Dublin’s orbital motorway cost just €1 billion back in 2010 – including a revamp of the new Red Cow interchange.

Congestion seems to have caught up with the M50, however, which is Ireland’s busiest road. Could it be time for five-lane carriageways?

7. Cork-Limerick M20 motorway: €1 billion

Kiboshed by Paschal Donohoe during his time as Transport Minister, the project to transform the dangerous single-carriageway road that links our second city, Cork, with our third and fourth-largest cities (Galway and Limerick respectively) is reportedly back on the agenda.

Simon Coveney has told local media in Cork that it is his “hope and instinct” that the €1 billion project would be included in a review of the Capital Investment Plan.

shutterstock_397824013St Patrick's Street in Cork.Source: Shutterstock

The motorway would ensure US executives flying in and out of Apple's European headquarters in Cork get a smooth ride up to Shannon Airport.

According to Transport Infrastructure Ireland, there are 11 mostly unfinished road projects in Cork - more than any other county.

These include the Dunkettle Interchange - Cork's version of the (old) Red Cow roundabout - which sees the M8 Dublin motorway, the N25 Waterford dual carriageway, the N40 Jack Lynch Tunnel, and the N8 Lower Glanmire Road converge.

8. Western Rail Corridor extension: €55 million

Rural TDs are fond of this plan, which would allow people to travel by rail from Sligo to Galway, and then on to Limerick.

The initial cost given for the entire rail corridor, back in 2004, was €250 million, but that includes a rail link from Limerick to Galway, via Ennis, which was built for €106 million in 2010.

There is no line, however, between Galway and Sligo. Members of the Independent Alliance and Rural Five have sought €55 million to be spent on a line between Athenry and Tuam.

The government has included a "review" of a line to Claremorris in the Programme for Government.

shutterstock_172122452 Galway by night. Shutterstock Shutterstock

9. Universal health insurance: Up to €2 billion 

Ireland's entire health budget is €14.1 billion - including hospitals, medical card schemes, mental health.

It was raised to €14.1 billion last June, when Minister for Health Simon Harris secured an additional €500 million in spending, some of which was used to reverse diversion of funds from ringfenced mental health services.

The additional money was in addition to the 2016 HSE service plan.

James Reilly's plan for universal health insurance would cost between €666 million and €2 billion extra, meanwhile, according, to an ESRI paper last November.

Children's hospital An artist's impression of the proposed children's hospital in Dublin

10. A new reputation: €? million

The Department of Finance has vowed to appeal the Commission's ruling on Apple's tax avoidance, in order to protect Ireland from charges that it is a tax haven.

Yet instead of forgoing €13 billion - or €19 billion including interest - for the sake of partnerships with multinational corporations, the government could use the money to invest in indigenous industry, including: food; tourism; IT and pharmaceuticals.

One wonders what kind of industrial strategy €13 billion could buy.

Read: EU orders Ireland to recover €13 billion in back taxes from Apple

Read: Other EU countries could claim a portion of Ireland's €13 billion in back taxes from Apple

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