We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will attend the World Economic Forum in Davos for three days this week. The last time he was there as Taoiseach was in 2019. DPA/PA Images

Taoiseach says some billionaires are all 'fur coat and no knickers'

Varadkar will be in Davos for three days this week.

LAST UPDATE | 18 Jan 2023

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said it would be “remiss” of him not to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos this week. 

Varadkar will attend the forum for three days – Wednesday, Thursday and Friday – missing the first week of the Dáil’s return after the Christmas break.

During his visit, the Taoiseach is expected to hold bilateral meetings with a number of political leaders, as well as senior executives from multinational companies with significant operations and employment in Ireland.

Varadkar is just one of nearly 400 government ministers and policymakers at the forum this year, with a further 600 CEOs also attending, along with some celebrities, including celebrity couple actor Idris Elba and Sabrina Dhowre Elba, who is a UN Goodwill Ambassador. 

Like every year, much of the most significant activity in Davos will take place behind closed doors. 

People Before Profit Richard Boyd Barrett said during Leaders’ Questions that the forum raises questions between the relationship between politics and business. 

He said the recent Oxfam report revealed “the absolutely grotesque and growing inequality that exists between the super rich in this country and across the world”. 

It is “shocking” how many people in this country have over €50 million, said Boyd Barrett, stating that the report shows that personal wealth has doubled since 2012.

The number of people worth nearly €5 million each has doubled in the same period, he said, calling for the Taoiseach to consider a wealth tax on the richest people in Ireland. 

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions, prior to flying to Davos today, Varadkar questioned the legitimacy of an Oxfam poverty report, saying that some billionaires are all “fur coat and no knickers”.

“We all know from past experience that some people who are billionaires on paper, or appear to be billionaires, are actually all fur coat and no knickers. They have a lot of money and assets on paper, but they also have a lot of debts and liabilities and their actual net wealth is negative or small,” he said.

Referring to the eight Irish billionaires mentioned in the report, he said “most of them do not live here, do not have their business based here and do not keep their assets here”.

“Why does the Deputy think this is? It is precisely because we have a tax regime that taxes wealth much more so than other countries,” said Varadkar.

He defended attending Davos, stating that he will be able to attend multiple meetings that would usually take weeks to organise. 

It is likely there could be particular interest in tech industry bosses at the event, given the recent job losses in the sector in Ireland. 

On arrival, Varadkar will take part in an IDA event attended by senior representatives of more than 50 large employers, during which some informal bilaterals are likely to take place.

The Taoiseach will also meet separately with CEOs from multinational companies of significance to Ireland.

Varadkar said he knows there are some people that believe the Davos meet up is about world governments meeting with businesses where decisions are made on “behalf of the elites” who secretly run the world.

He said if that was the case, he would attend the full week of the forum.

While the Taoiseach will be paying attention to what is happening with jobs and industry and what it means for Ireland, Minister for Finance Michael McGrath will also attend the forum for two days this week. 

He will participate in a range of high level meetings and will participate in a panel discussion at the event titled: ‘Jobs Consortium: Towards a New Vision for the Future of Work’.

McGrath will also host a dinner with IDA client companies who are key investors in Ireland.

Speaking ahead of his trip, McGrath said the World Economic Forum provides a valuable opportunity for Ireland to engage with senior political and business leaders from across the world.

“I look forward to representing Ireland alongside the Taoiseach at this important gathering of economic leaders. I will devote a lot of my time at the Forum to meeting current and potential job-creators in Ireland, with a view to promoting the expansion of existing investments and the establishment of new ones.” 

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel