Ireland's cabinet may be given more time to decide on whether to back the finance minister's recommendation that Dublin appeal the European Commission's ruling against its tax dealings with Apple, another minister said on Wednesday.
Finance Minister Michael Noonan said on Tuesday he "disagreed profoundly" with the Commission's order that Apple should hand over to Ireland unpaid taxes of up to $14.5 billion ruled to be illegal state aid. He will seek approval for an appeal from cabinet.
The minority government led by Noonan's Fine Gael is reliant on the support of a number of independent lawmakers, a group of whom, the Independent Alliance, said on Tuesday that they were reviewing the decision and would need to further consult with Noonan, tax officials and independent experts.
If the Independent Alliance refused to back an appeal and pulled out of government, Fine Gael would no longer have sufficient support in parliament to pass legislation and the government could collapse.
"I'm sure, if people need time to understand this matter, that we will create the time and space to do this properly," Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe of Fine Gael told national broadcaster RTE when asked if Prime Minister Enda Kenny would allow the Alliance more time if they ask for it.
"We will be able to make a decision but it is appropriate that we give this the time it needs. I am very confident that this government will work its way through this issue and continue with the mandate the Irish people have given us."
Fine Gael is also reliant on an agreement with its biggest rival, Fianna Fail, to abstain on key votes to facilitate the minority government. Fianna Fail said on Tuesday it would back an appeal through the European Courts.
Both parties were criticized by left-wing Sinn Fein, the country's third largest party. It said the government should accept the Commission's ruling and impose the tax bill on the iPhone maker, which says it will also appeal.
"It is important that Irish taxpayers are represented at today's cabinet meeting. The Independent Alliance have an opportunity to do that. They should oppose any appeal and insist that the correct tax bill is paid by Apple," Sinn Fein's David Cullinane said in a statement.