Just days after this week’s DUP-Sinn Fein deal, fears are already being expressed that Sinn Fein are backtracking on a key committment – the agreement to cut corporation tax in April 2018.
On Wednesday – just a day after the agreement – Sinn Fein’s leader on Belfast City Council, veteran republican and former IRA prisoner Jim McVeigh, wrote an online message to reassure supporters about the deal.
In it, he said: “As for corporation tax, we won’t be signing up to any cut unless we can afford it and we won’t be able to afford it anytime soon comrades! This is about taking further fiscal powers back to Ireland. About giving us the power to reshape our economy.”
That comment was followed by a three-page newsletter distributed by Sinn Fein’s international department on Thursday in an attempt to sell the deal to the party’s supporters.
Despite the corporation tax cut being a major element of the deal, with a cost to Stormont of around £240 million, the document made no reference whatsoever to the issue.
The apparent dispute about what Tuesday’s deal means on corporation tax has echoes of the arguments between the DUP and Sinn Fein in the weeks after December’s Stormont House Agreement. Eventually, Sinn Fein pulled out of that deal, claiming that it had been misled about what it was signing up to.
When asked about the issue on Radio Ulster’s Inside Politics programme last night, Peter Robinson said that if Sinn Fein walks away from that aspect of the deal then businesses will know who to blame.
UUP MLA Adrian Cochrane-Watson MLA said that Mr McVeigh’s comments demonstrated “a serious fault line developing in Sinn Fein`s attitude to devolving corporation tax varying powers to Northern Ireland”.
The South Antrim MLA said: “Sinn Fein and the DUP have been going to endless lengths this week to self-congratulate over the so-called ‘Fresh Start’.
“But just like Sinn Fein pulled the plug on the Stormont House Agreement, a serious fault line has already appeared in Sinn Fein’s attitude to corporation tax.
“While Martin McGuinness is endorsing a date and rate of April 2018 and 12.5 per cent, a senior colleague is not.”
He added: “So which is it, Sinn Fein? Are we seeing another rollover? Will the same thing happen to corporation tax as happened to welfare reform when there was discontent in the Sinn Fein ranks? It’s time for them to be upfront about their intentions.”
See Morning View, page 20