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Sinn Fein councillor tweet signals internal 'fault line'

Sinn Féin Belfast City Council group leader Jim McVeigh
Sinn Féin Belfast City Council group leader Jim McVeigh Sinn Féin Belfast City Council group leader Jim McVeigh

CONFLICTING views within Sinn Féin over a cut in corporation tax have been described as evidence of a "fault line" in the party over the business-friendly policy.

The party's Belfast City Council group leader Jim McVeigh posted messages on Twitter and Facebook suggesting republicans would resist efforts to reduce the corporation tax rate in 2018 if it impacted on public services.

The deal agreed earlier this week between the two governments, the DUP and Sinn Féin includes a commitment to cut corporation tax rate to 12.5 per cent, bringing it in line with the rate in the Republic.

It is estimated the measure, which is designed to attract a greater level of overseas investment in the north, would cost the Stormont executive between £200m–£325m a year.

On Facebook Mr McVeigh posted: "As for corporation tax, we won't be signing up to any cut unless we afford it and we won't be able to afford it any time soon comrades.

"This is about taking further fiscal powers back to Ireland – about giving us the power to reshape our economy."

When Sinn Féin was asked on Friday whether the party supported Mr McVeigh's sentiments, a spokesman pointed to a tweet by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness which said: "Sinn Féin will honour all commitments it made in this week's agreement."

But the Ulster Unionists' economy spokesman said the conflicting opinions highlighted a "fault line" in Sinn Féin's attitude to corporation tax.

South Antrim MLA Adrian Cochrane-Watson said Sinn Féin could withdraw support for a corporation tax reduction in the same manner it withdrew backing for welfare reform measures in March.

"Are we seeing another rollover?," he said.

"Will the same thing happen to corporation tax as happened to welfare reform when there was discontent in the Sinn Féin ranks? – it's time for them to be upfront about their intentions."