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Last Updated: Monday, 1 December, 2003, 13:33 GMT
Ireland 'film tax breaks may end'
The Magdalene Sisters
Irish film The Magdalene Sisters was a critical success
Ireland's government is deciding this week whether to go ahead with plans to end tax breaks for film-makers.

The plans have been criticised by actors and writers who say the moves could destroy the country's movie industry, The Guardian newspaper said.

Director Neil Jordan and writer Roddy Doyle are among those who have complained to Irish finance minister Charlie McCreevy.

The Irish government will decide the issue during budget day on Wednesday.

It's not that there will be an unlevel playing field - there will be no playing field at all
Andrew Lowe, Screen Producers Ireland

The Guardian said more than 500 actors had signed a petition for Screen Producers Ireland - led by Stephen Rea, Aidan Quinn and Patrick Bergin.

Doyle - who wrote the book on which the film The Commitments was based was one of Ireland's biggest cultural exports of the 1990s - called the idea "criminal" and said ending tax breaks would "decimate" the industry.

He said the forthcoming movie of his book, A Star Called Henry, set in Dublin at the turn of the 20th Century, may have to be shot in Prague.

Andrew Lowe, of Screen Producers Ireland, told The Guardian: "It's not that there will be an unlevel playing field - there will be no playing field at all."

Veronica Guerin
The movie Veronica Guerin was also well received in Ireland
According to the paper, Ireland spent 36.8m euro (24m) in 2001 on exempting artists, composers and writers from paying tax.

Film cost the Irish government 29m euro in tax in the same year.

Ireland, with a population of less than four million, has the highest cinema attendance rates in Europe. The film industry employs more than 4,000 people, putting 107m euro a year into the Irish economy.

Intermission, starring Colin Farrell, which opened in UK this weekend, is the most profitable fully-funded Irish film ever, taking 2.7m euro in Ireland alone.

Last year Irish films took top European awards, with Bloody Sunday winning the Golden Bear at Berlin, and The Magdalene Sisters taking the Golden Lion at Venice.

A spokesman for the Irish government said proposals to end the tax breaks at the end of 2004 were first mooted during the last budget a year ago.

He said he could not speculate on what might happen ahead of Wednesday's announcement.

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