Dubliners divided over Apple windfall dilemma

August 31, 2016 9:45 AM EDT

An Apple logo is seen in the window of an authorised apple reseller store in Galway, Ireland August 30, 2016. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

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By Conor Humphries

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Faced with a $14.5 billion windfall after an EU ruling on Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) tax affairs, carer Louise O'Reilly knew exactly what the Irish government should do with the money: spend it on pensioners who are struggling to get by.

In fact the penalty, which the EU Commission on Tuesday ordered Apple to pay as back taxes to Ireland, would cover the country's entire annual health service bill or six percent of its national debt.

But Dublin is to fight the ruling, fearful it might jeopardize its ability to attract multinational companies, many of whom come to Ireland for its low rates of corporation tax, although a victory in court would mean the government forgoing Apple's money.

"They are doing the wrong thing. They don't care about the normal people," said O'Reilly, 57, a full-time carer for her diabetic and partially blind mother.

"The money should be spent on the old-age pensioners who worked all their lives and are struggling to survive."

O'Reilly's mother pays 10 euros tax on a monthly pension of 1,050 euros ($1,170), a higher rate than the EU said Apple's main Irish unit paid on its profits in 2014.

Gerard Augusta, a 56-year-old security guard from Dublin, said the government should take Apple's money and put it into housing and hospitals.

"I think the unions and the workers should be out marching about it, to be honest with you. Apple is paying just 50 euros on every million euros that they earn," he said.

Natalie Byrne, 36, a cleaner, also thought the government should not appeal against the EU ruling.

"I understand about the jobs part. We don't want to see any more jobs go. But we have to live by the rules."

Others worried about how the ruling would affect a country where one worker in ten is employed by a multinational corporation.

"The big thing is to make sure the big corporations keep coming to Ireland," said Conor Moran, 30, a software developer.

"As mad as it sounds turning down that kind of money ... I think in the long term it might be more beneficial to cosy up to these guys," he said, referring to the multinationals.

Brid O'Carolan, a 70-year-old pensioner, said Ireland should defend its low-tax climate.

"I think we have to do whatever we can to get jobs here," he said. "We need to fight our own corner."

($1 = 0.8989 euros)

(Additional reporting by Sarah Young; Writing by Giles Elgood; editing by Anna Willard)

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