There are no special Irish tax arrangements in the alliance agreement reached between the State and the partners, KPN and Telia. It is my understanding that comments about tax planning issues made by a representative of the strategic partners related to arrangements between KPN and Telia. As these are matters for the two partners, I have no further comment to make.
The Deputy should at this stage be well aware of the Government's views on the future development of Telecom Éireann. Government policy on this issue is clearly set out in the programme for Government. In summary the State's assets will not be sold except where it protects employment and is in the long-term strategic interest of the company and its stakeholders. The Government is committed to retaining majority State ownership in these companies. Opportunities for expansion to utilise the bank of skills in these companies will be encouraged. In addition, commercial State bodies will be given a clear commercial mandate and clarity in the financial targets which measure their performance.
The Telecom Éireann strategic alliance clearly fits the criteria set down in the programme for Government as being in the long-term interest of the company and its stakeholders. Furthermore, the Telecommunications (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1996 provides that the aggregate State shareholding in Telecom Éireann must not be reduced to less than a majority of the issued share capital.