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Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie
taxation report

Paschal Donohoe says he 'absolutely accepts' Leo Varadkar's explanations about 'Merrion Gate'

Donohoe also said today that he was invited to the event but was out of the country when it took place.

FINANCE MINISTER PASCHAL Donohoe has said he “absolutely accepts” the explanations from his party leader Tánaiste Leo Varadkar with regard to the controversial event in the Merrion Hotel.

Former minister Katherine Zappone announced last week that she would not take up a UN role she was nominated by the government for after it was revealed that she had held a large social event outdoors at Dublin’s Merrion Hotel which Varadkar attended. 

Varadkar has said he regretted going and that he “probably let his guard down”. 

Speaking to reporters this afternoon, Donohoe said he was invited to the event but “didn’t give it any consideration” as he knew he would be out of the country on government business and “couldn’t make it”. 

In response to questions, Donohoe said he couldn’t answer a “hypothetical from the past” about whether he would have attended if he had been able to, but that he would “have asked questions” about its compliance with Covid-19 restrictions. 

“I was invited but I didn’t give the invitation any consideration because I knew the dates of the events. I couldn’t actually make it. I would expect if I could have I would have asked questions in terms of public health guidance and so on,” Donohoe said.

Varadkar has said he sought to clarify with Zappone and the venue about whether it was within public health guidance. 

Donohoe said today that he accepted Varadkar’s explanations. 

“I know the Tánaiste himself came out and responded back to all of the questions in relation to that event. And I apologise for the annoyance and difficulty that I know that was created around the event. I unequivocally, absolutely support the Tánaiste in the work that he’s doing.

I believe that in his role as Taoiseach in the last government he has played a central role in supporting our country in responding to the effects of this awful disease, on our health, on our economy and on society. And I believe as Tánaiste he’ll continue to do that really important job really, really well. And I absolutely accept the explanations that he has given regarding the event.

In a statement last Wednesday after news of the event and Varadkar’s attendance broke, the government said the Attorney General had advised that such events are legally allowed.

On Friday, Fáilte Ireland updated its guidelines for organised outdoor events to reflect this on the foot of this clarification about the current regulations in place.

Speaking today, Donohoe said there had been “a gap” between the regulations in place and that this has now been closed. 

He also denied that it was inappropriate for the Attorney General to intervene in the manner he did. 

“The office of the attorney general and this Attorney General are independent law officers, they make a decision regarding the statements they issue and guidance that the government issues. So I don’t think there is a precedent set here that it is anyway inappropriate,” he said. 

Annual Taxation Report

The Finance Minister was speaking as the fourth Annual Taxation Report was released by his department today.

The report notes that, despite the “once-in-a-century global pandemic” in 2020, tax revenues fell by just 3.6% last year. The report found that this was due to the resilience of income tax, the single largest tax revenue source. 

The report notes however that expected reductions in corporation tax receipts over the coming years represent “a significant risk to the public finances”. 

Donohoe said that the corporation tax take is expected to decrease by €0.5 billion per year and will be “€1.5-2 billion less by the mid 2020s”. 

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