Brian Hayes MEP

Blind and visually impaired people will benefit significantly from the new EU rules on copyright – Hayes

Blind and visually impaired people will benefit significantly from the new EU rules on copyright – Hayes

Dublin MEP, Brian Hayes has today (Friday) welcomed new EU legislation that will give greater access to books for blind and visually impaired people. The Fine Gael MEP was speaking after the European Parliament successfully passed the new regulation which will increase the number of books and other copyright materials available in accessible formats such as braille, audio books and large print.

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“The decision taken by the European Parliament in Strasbourg means that books and other materials that are protected by copyright law can now be easily reproduced in an accessible format for blind and visually impaired people. Up until now visually impaired people only had access to less than 5% of published works in the EU.”

“Everyone has a right to education, information and social participation. The rules up until now have been very unfair. Blind and visually impaired people have been excluded from reading books as they were not published in accessible formats due to copyright rules. The new rules voted by MEPs changes that. Individuals and organisations can now make copies of works in accessible formats and distribute them across the EU without fear of breaking the law.”

“There are approximately 30 million visually impaired people in the EU who will benefit significantly from this regulation change.” concluded MEP Hayes.

Hayes welcomes Minister Donohoe appearance at European Parliament Tax Committee

Hayes welcomes Minister Donohoe appearance at European Parliament Tax Committee

Brian Hayes MEP today welcomed the news that Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe will appear before the European Parliament’s Panama Papers (PANA) Committee next Tuesday 11th July.

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“Minister Donohoe is absolutely right to come before the European Parliament early in his new role to answer questions on tax policy and anti-money laundering. Ireland is in a strong position on tax matters and despite some Member States and MEPs having a go at our competitive offering, we can be confident that we have one of the most fit-for-purpose tax systems in the EU.

“The PANA Committee was set up in the wake of the Panama papers scandal revealed information about the secret offshore companies used to hide wealth and evade taxes. The revelations demonstrated an organised web of financial secrecy which should not be tolerated.

“Ireland is very much part of the fight against this sort of tax evasion. We have taken a leading role in the negotiations for the OECD BEPS process and we have been one of the most active countries in implementing the OECD guidelines. We have made major changes to our corporation tax system in the past 3 years and as a result, we are seeing more and more corporation tax revenue coming in.

“Minister Donohoe has a good opportunity to show to MEPs that Ireland has a very fair but competitive tax system. This is also a chance to tell MEPs that tax matters remain sovereign and it is up to Member States to decide how they design their tax systems.”

Sinn Féin MEPs side with far right and refuse to back corporate tax transparency rules – Hayes

Sinn Féin MEPs side with far right and refuse to back corporate tax transparency rules – Hayes

Sinn Féin MEPs today took the bizarre position of refusing to vote for new EU measures to force multinationals based in the EU to publicly disclose their tax information on a country-by-country basis. Brian Hayes MEP said that the new public country-by-country rules will make Europe more tax transparent.

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“Today’s vote shows that Sinn Féin has no credibility when it comes to corporate tax matters. The Parliament’s proposed rules on public country-by-country reporting are a result of compromise negotiations between the main political groups in the European Parliament.

“Instead of backing these radical tax transparency reforms, Sinn Féin MEPs sided with the likes of Marine Le Pen’s Front National in France to take their usual anti-everything position. These measures would be the first of their kind to force multinational companies which have annual turnover of over €750 million to make their tax information public.

“While we were not happy with everything contained in the final report, Fine Gael MEPs were able to vote in favour in the knowledge that this was a compromise which aims to take different political viewpoints into account. Sinn Fein MEP’s refusal to back the measures shows that all they offer is a protest vote instead of trying to work with others to come to a balanced outcome.

“This is a good step in the process for balanced tax transparency. Country-by-country reporting should be made public as long as it is fair and is in the public interest.

“What was important in the final outcome of Parliament’s position is that there is a clause which ensures that companies can get an exemption from publishing commercially sensitive information. These exemptions need to be approved by the national regulator and must be scrutinised by the European Commission before they can get approval. There are enough checks and balances to ensure that this clause is not treated as a loophole.

“There has to be a balance between public disclosure and commercial sensitivity. We cannot create rules that makes business impossible to function in Europe. We want to ensure that we keep the likes of Facebook, Google and Apple in the EU. Most of these companies have a big presence in Ireland, pay more than 80% of the totality of corporate tax collected, employ over 200,000 people – they are part of Ireland and Europe’s success story. It is a good thing that they have invested in our country and see the benefit of what we have to offer.

“We also must remember that this is only one stage of the process. The legislation still must be adopted by the Council, i.e. the Member States, and put to a final vote in Parliament and Council at a later stage.”

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Ireland joining European Southern Observatory would boost SME sector – Hayes

Ireland joining European Southern Observatory would boost SME sector – Hayes

Membership would enable Irish astrophysics’ sector to pitch for international high tech contracts

Careful consideration must be given by the Government to Ireland joining the European Southern Observatory (ESO), said Brian Hayes.

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“The limited offer, which presents reduced fees, is due to expire very soon, and while the investment is not inconsiderable, the longer term benefits to the Irish economy must not be underestimated, he added.

“ESO is widely recognised as the most advanced, and scientifically productive, astronomical facility on the planet. For the last 10 years, ESO membership is regarded as the top priority of Irish astronomers.

“TCD, UCD, NUIG, NUIM, DCU, UCC all run astrophysics-related degree programmes, with an average of 10 students graduating in astronomy and astrophysics per institution, per year. Astronomy is an excellent motivator for the brightest students to enter STEM and provides an excellent source of transferrable skills, including analytical, computational, and problem solving.

“Irish membership in the ESO would include:

  • Irish researchers being guaranteed access to its facilities
  • Irish businesses being able to compete for contracts to develop and supply products and services to the ESO
  • A number of training and collaboration for students and researchers within the astrophysics sphere
  • The further promotion of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths subjects through the ESO’s very successful outreach programmes

“In addition to the large research community already in position to maximize scientific return from ESO membership, Ireland also has the industrial capability to bid successfully for contracts that will be available. ESO recognises Ireland’s potential to compete and deliver on major international research and industrial projects, and in a bit to encourage us to join, have offered a reduced joining and membership fee, and an option to spread this cost over a 10 year period.

“This cost is not insignificant. Member states are charged membership fees based on its GDP, but the current Director General of the ESO is freezing our joining fee at the 2015 GDP rate. Therefore, the current entrance fee is in the region of €14 million euro, with an annual fee of circa €3 million. However, the ESO target is to have a minimum industrial return coefficient of at least 70% for each Member State, with no upper bound.

“The vision in Innovation 2020 is for Ireland to become a Global Innovation Leader driving a strong sustainable economy and a better society.  Key to this vision is supporting excellent science, nurturing talent and delivering impact.

“Over the past 10 years, the 16 ESO member states have benefitted from contracts worth a total of €715 million. Can we afford on passing up a chance to share a slice of this pie?

“It is my understanding that the Department of Enterprise and Innovation is currently engaged in discussions on the Mid-Term Review of the Capital Plan. I would urge a close study of the long-term benefits ESO membership would pose to our SME sector – and a timely completion of this review as the discounted offer is due to expire when the Director Steps down from the ESO in a couple of months.”

BoI shares sale could net €1bn for rainy day fund

Published in in the Irish Independent 3rd July 2017

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14% government stake in Bank of Ireland should be sold before end-2017 – Hayes

14% government stake in Bank of Ireland should be sold before end-2017 – Hayes

Proceeds of sale should go to new Rainy Day Fund

Brian Hayes MEP today said that there is strong rationale for the government selling its stake in Bank of Ireland before the end of 2017.

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“While the focus has all been on the government sell off of AIB, there is also a clear opportunity for the government to sell its 14% stake in Bank of Ireland before the end of this year. This would be the perfect source of income to kick-start our rainy day fund which is expected to be set up in 2019.

“The government’s 14% stake is worth over €1 billion based on the current share price. Given that we expect to put €1 billion into our rainy day fund every year this is the ideal way to start the process and build up our savings to protect against the risks of Brexit and other potential economic shocks. We also are facing a massive pension liability into the future as people are living longer and demographics are changing.

“The problem facing the government is that the commitment in the programme for government only allows for a 25% sell-off in any bank until the end of 2018. This needs to be reconsidered – the government needs to have the flexibility to be able to go to the markets if there is opportunity to get value-for-money for the taxpayer on the government shareholding in the banks.

“At the moment there is good value for a stock market flotation. Bank of Ireland’s share price has recovered from the shock of the Brexit referendum and with Eurozone growth looking steady, we now have an opportunity to get a good return for Irish taxpayers. On top of that, given that Bank of Ireland is the most exposed bank to the UK market it may be prudent to offload the stock before the oncoming uncertainty of Brexit.

“Bank of Ireland has recorded annual profits of over €1 billion for both 2015 and 2016. It has reduced its non-performing loans by €4.1 billion or 34% since December 2015. Its tier 1 capital has increased rapidly in recent months to over 12% and the bank is expected to pay dividends later this year or early 2018.

“It would be a positive message for the government and for the Irish economy if we can soon state that one of our pillar banks has been fully returned to the private sector and is free of government influence. This would be a significant milestone after the scale of our banking collapse.

“It is not in Ireland’s long-term interest to have large state holdings in the banking sector. It doesn’t help competition in the sector. It discourages new entrants from coming into the banking market, offering new products and competing with the pillar banks for business. If ever we need new entrants, it is now.

“Minister Donohoe has many issues to consider in coming to a conclusion on the disposal of its shareholding in both AIB and Bank of Ireland. Timing the sale of the bank shares requires good judgement and a measure of luck. But we should not wait around too long for the perfect opportunity as it may never come.”