Sinn Féin spokesperson on Finance Pearse Doherty TD has criticised the Minister for Finance for allowing companies who received millions of euros of taxpayers’ money through the wage subsidy to pay out dividends to shareholders during the pandemic.
Speaking at the Finance Committee today, the Donegal TD said that the Minister had allowed taxpayers’ money to be transferred from the state to shareholders while employees saw their pay cut.
On March 23rd 2020, Teachta Doherty wrote to the Minister for Finance requesting that strict conditionality be attached to financial assistance provided to companies so that government support was not used to secure dividends for shareholders.
Teachta Doherty said:
“Today the Minister for Finance told the Finance Committee that he had considered banning dividends being paid to shareholders of companies receiving the wage subsidy scheme but decided not to.
“This inaction has resulted in millions of euros in taxpayers’ money being transferred from the state to wealthy shareholders through the wage subsidy scheme during the pandemic.
“This was at a time when hundreds of thousands of workers saw their pay packets reduced while on the scheme.
“The Minister could not even tell the Committee the amount of money that had been paid out to shareholders of companies while they were receiving state support – all funded by the taxpayer.
“In one instance, a company received payments worth €1.8 million through the wage subsidy scheme and then paid out dividends of €1.8 million to shareholders in the Isle of Man.
“This is corporate welfare with taxpayers footing the bill.
“Workers who have lost their jobs or had their pay cut under the wage subsidy scheme will be rightly outraged that public money has been siphoned off to shareholders in this way.
“The Minister dropped the ball and failed to protect the taxpayer.
“Millions of euros of state supports have been siphoned off to shareholders during the pandemic, but the Minister can’t even tell us how much.
“Taxpayers have paid a heavy price for ministerial incompetence.”