Michael Healy Rae failed to support the emergency 9% VAT rate from day one, Fine Gael Kerry Minister of State, Brendan Griffin has said.
Speaking in Leinster House on Budget Day, Minister Griffin said: “Michael Healy Rae’s Budget criticism is utterly shameless and a cheap political stunt. On the 26th of May 2011, when Fine Gael in Government introduced the temporary reduced rate of 9% VAT, Michael Healy Rae didn’t even vote for it, despite it being a huge lifeline to the tourism industry in Kerry when it was on its knees.
“He has now shown himself to be a complete hypocrite and didn’t even have the interest to show up in the Dáil for the Budget speech, the most important day of the year for any TD. Where was he?
“He also failed to show up in 2016 when the new government was being formed when he ran away from taking the responsibility of government. Other Independent TDs worked to become Cabinet Ministers and make a contribution, but Michael and his brother betrayed the people of Kerry by taking the easy way out. They opted to be populists, criticising every government decision that they might actually have influenced.
“The presence of the Healy-Rae brothers in the Dáil hasn’t brought anything positive into Kerry. All talk, no action and no courage; they are a waste of two valuable seats.
“For my part, I fought tooth and nail to retain the 9% rate of VAT and despite my prolonged, meticulous and robust negotiating on behalf of the tourism industry, the decision was reached by government to revert to the standard rate. This had been due to happen in 2014 but the measure was extended each year since then due to intensive lobbying by me as a TD and Minister.
“When it became apparent to me that I would not succeed in extending the 9% rate for a fifth year beyond the original plan, I immediately set about ensuring the best possible alternative budgetary outcome for the tourism industry. The result of that intensive negotiating was an unprecedented 25% increase of almost €40 million in the tourism budget for 2019, which will heavily focus on the further growth of tourism in rural areas and the extension of seasonality to generate greater revenue for all tourism dependent enterprises, big and small, rural and urban.
“This support package for international marketing, product development and industry support will generate many multiples of a return on the additional investment and will help us to manage the outstanding success of the Irish tourism industry in recent years to ensure that the growth can continue sustainably in terms of visitor numbers and revenue generated.”