Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 26 May 2016

Campaign groups call for backing over Robin Hood tax on bankers

Published 26/01/2016

Karen Smith and Noel Collins (centre front) join a coalition of Irish civil organisations launching the Robin Hood Tax Campaign Ireland at the Mansion House in Dublin
Karen Smith and Noel Collins (centre front) join a coalition of Irish civil organisations launching the Robin Hood Tax Campaign Ireland at the Mansion House in Dublin

A coalition of trade unions, NGOs and rights groups has called on the Government to back a Robin Hood tax on bankers and stockbrokers which could raise up to 360 million euro (£273m) a year.

The campaign said the current Fine Gael-Labour coalition is ignoring an opportunity for a financial transaction tax which is being taken up by 10 other European states.

The European Commission is trying to target speculators on the world money markets by proposing a tax of 0.1% on trading in bonds and shares and 0.01% on derivatives.

The Claiming Our Future group, which is spearheading the campaign in Ireland, said half the money raised should be used to reverse cuts in public services, a quarter to fight poverty in developing countries and the rest on tackling climate change.

Spokeswoman Anna Visser said politicians have been reluctant to declare support.

"What we are really saying here is that it's imminent in terms of the 10 countries so it's time to get on board," she said.

"Once something like this is up and running and the world does not end the argument is even stronger that the tax is something relatively small but revolutionary."

Analysis from the Nevin Economic Research Institute claimed the Robin Hood tax would boost the economy by creating 9,250 jobs through the investment in infrastructure, tax cuts and the increase in public services.

Campaigners also claim the levy would not damage Dublin's valuable International Financial Services Centre.

Under the proposals brokers, traders and bankers could only avoid the tax if they stopped all business with countries that have the levy in place.

The campaign has support from the likes of Oxfam and Trocaire, trade union umbrella group Congress and a large number of its affiliates, National Women's Council Ireland and environmental groups including Friends of the Earth.

Similar campaigns are running in the US and have the backing of Senator Bernie Sanders, a potential democratic nominee for the presidential race.

Claiming Our Future held a series of meetings with politicians in Dublin in an attempt to pressure them to support Ireland joining Belgium, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Austria, Portugal, Slovenia and Slovakia by enforcing the financial transaction tax.

It is expected a European agreement involving those countries under "enhanced co-operation" - a voluntary directive for states in the bloc - will be finalised by June with the first taxes being collected in 2017.

Ms Visser said the Green Party and People Before Profit have committed to the campaign in their manifestos.

"The response from some of the bigger parties is more cautious," she said.

"They have responded with the argument that we don't think stack up such as that it would displace financial institutions to other countries. They think they would be moving to London."

Eurostat surveys of the financial transaction tax after it was proposed in 2011 showed 64% support across the European Union but in Ireland only about half of those surveyed backed the idea.

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