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baltimoresun.com

U2 tax compliance: the view from Ireland

7:00 AM EDT, July 15, 2011

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U2 appear unable to grasp the core of the issue regarding their tax status in Ireland ("The Edge: U2, Bono have not evaded taxes," July 13) . Nobody on this island doubts that they are fully in compliance with Irish or European law, or that they have every right to move their tax base to the Netherlands. Indeed, the Irish Exchequer can hardly complain, considering the criticism Ireland has received from many quarters in Europe because of its own low corporate tax rate. Rather, the quibble lies with the double standards applied by Bono and Co. when lecturing us on the rights and wrongs of wealth distribution.

U2 are hardly in a position to scold the people of Europe (and particularly of Ireland) about our perceived unwillingness to contribute more to Africa, or to pressure our governments to do so. Ireland is confined to an economic hospice, overburdened by crippling bank debt, 15 percent unemployment, and the straitjacket of European monetary union. The Irish people feel rightly aggrieved that U2 have chosen to siphon their earnings through the Dutch tax system, thereby availing themselves of lower rates, and denying their own country significant amounts of revenue that would genuinely make a positive difference to the Irish economy and society at a critical time.

They are altogether more outraged by Bono's continued insistence that more needs to be done for the poor, when he and his friends have effectively refused to do so for the poor of Ireland, or at least to speak out on their behalf. At a time when the Irish government is shutting hospitals and schools and facing unbearable pressure from European banking interests, and record numbers of people rely on charity to feed their families, can the tax-avoiding juggernaut of U2 truly feel they are morally justified in their unethical and hypocritical behavior?

As for The Edge, it is amusing to hear him proclaim that Ireland is not bankrupt. I understand that it may be difficult to retain an impartial outlook from one's mansion in Malibu, but perhaps if he were to walk the streets of Dublin or Limerick with the ordinary plebs, he may learn to keep quiet on such matters. Might I suggest he start by visiting the record numbers of soup kitchens in his native city?

Edward Collins, Galway, Ireland