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Finance committee chair defends tourist tax plan

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — The _3 a night tourist tax proposed for Dublin has been strongly defended by the city’s finance committee chairman, who denied it would hit visitor numbers and described critics as suffering from “tunnel vision.”

Labor councilor Paddy Bourke said he had no apology to make for the proposal, which was passed unanimously by his committee.

The bed night tax would be levied for each night visitors spend in hotels and bed and breakfasts and could add hundreds of pounds to the bills of families holidaying in Dublin.

The Irish Hotels Federation has described the proposal as “absolutely crazy,” but Bourke denied the tax could kill the golden goose of the city’s burgeoning tourism industry and said a continuing failure to develop visitor facilities was a greater threat.

“If we don’t do something about the city, it is going to become tired and jaded looking and we won’t be able to offer anything to the tourist,” Bourke said.

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“People objecting to this have tunnel vision. We need to make the place look a lot better. We are trading on our name for being a friendly city and a good place to go to have a few jars, but that is not enough.”

He was not optimistic that Environment Minister Noel Dempsey would enact the enabling legislation that would allow Dublin Corporation, the municipal government, collect the tax. “We have put in the application, but ‘the minister is looking at it’ often means it is in a black hole and could stay there forever,” Bourke said.

“A bed night tax is something that is levied throughout the world,” Bourke said. “The government have never been prepared to allow the Corporation raise its own taxes. We are always the poor relation left in a position of dependence. The government is already making millions from tourist taxes and yet they are proposing a _3 entry tax on vistors.

“All we want is resources to help us develop. We have the plans, but we need the money. If the government wants to give us the money instead, that will be fine by us.”

Bourke said that despite being the capital city, out of a budget of _280 million, the Corporation only gets a subvention of _16 million in lieu of the government decision to abolish rates.

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