Mary Mitchell O'Connor still backing tax plan to bring emigrants home

The Jobs Minister says she hasn't given up on a plan to lure Irish emigrants back home.

Mary MItchell O'Connor, Fine Gael, Jobs Minister

Image: Leah Farrell/Rolling News

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation says she hasn't given up on a plan to lure Irish emigrants back home.

A pre-budget proposal from Mary Mitchell O'Connor's department, which would have offered a 30% tax rate for returning emigrant graduates earning more than €60,000, caused widespread controversy.

The so-called "emigrants' tax" was aimed at those in specialist jobs in areas such as medicine, science, IT and finance.

However, Taoiseach Enda Kenny was later forced to dismiss the idea, saying in the Dáil that: "Somebody away in London or New York or America, wherever, and they come back, and they're working in the same facility as somebody else and they're paying a different rate of tax simply because they've come back? 

"I would regard that as being unfair and discriminatory, of course."

Speaking on Down To Business on Sunday, Mary Mitchell O'Connor stated that, while the tax had been scrapped in its current guise, her department would be looking at bringing something similar to the table again, as there was some merit to the idea behind it.

"I have been meeting all the business people around the country. The first thing they tell me, their biggest issue, is to find skilled staff, to find people that are work ready and that have the skills," explained Minister Mitchell O'Connor. "So, where do you look? One place that I thought would be a very good place, and I still think it, is our emigrants. 

"Our emigrants left our country between 2008-2011. They couldn't get jobs, but we had educated them, we had trained them up in apprenticeships, and our country actually needs them back in Ireland.

"We'll look at it again, we'll look at it in a different way. I've had words, I've spoken with the Minister of Finance and our department will go back again," she added, "because we have to respond to what the business leaders and entrepreneurs are telling us that they need."

The Minister also stated that the budget, which was announced earlier this week, contained a number of measures aimed at addressing the problems which were highlighted in the criticisms of the proposed tax. However, she noted that the government has set out its stall when it comes to bringing emigrants home.

"In the program for government that was agree with Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, there's actually a commitment in that to bring back 70,000 emigrants, so how will we do it?"

"Of course, there are other issues for the emigrants and for our own people [...] Childcare is an issue, housing is an issue and we've tried to address all of that in the budget."