Sinn Fein urged to clarify party position on corporation tax

Nigel Smyth, director of the CBI in Northern Ireland. Paul Faith/PA Wire

Nigel Smyth, director of the CBI in Northern Ireland. Paul Faith/PA Wire

Pressure is mounting on Sinn Fein to clarify its position on the Executive’s commitment to cut corporation tax to 12.5 per cent by April 2018.

On the BBC’s ‘Good Friday Agreement Generation’ programme on Wednesday night, Chris Hazzard said the change was dependent on its “affordability”.

The party’s Assembly election candidate said: “We said in the Fresh Start Agreement, if this is affordable we will agree”.

His Sinn Fein colleague Alex Maskey tweeted his support for Mr Hazzard’s interpretation of the party position, but also added the line that “quality jobs created” was a precondition.

Another senior party figure, deputy first minister Martin McGuinness said affordability was always an issue, but to The View programme on Thursday: “I think it will be affordable”.

On the Nolan Show yesterday, CBI director Nigel Smyth said he detects a “little bit of uncertainty” among Sinn Fein figures over the commitment.

Mr Smyth said he believes the deputy first minister Martin McGuinness supports the cut, but added: “It has been known for some time it will only be devolved if the Assembly can demonstrate affordable finances, and we are going to know that over the next three to four months”.

Asked if the mixed messages from Sinn Fein were helpful, Mr Smyth said: “They are clearly not helpful.”

Economist Paul Gosling there is a “lack of clarity” from Sinn Fein on the issue.

“My perception is there are tension within Sinn Fein.”

Mr Gosling dismissed the Twitter comment from Alex Maskey - that the cut was also dependent on “quality jobs” being created - as “rhetoric” as “no one can say in advance” what jobs will materialise.

Both the Ulster Unionists and Conservatives have called for Sinn Fein to clarify its position.

Adrian Cochrane-Watson of the UUP suggested Mr McGuinness was in favour but had been “overpowered by his southern command and reneged on that commitment”.