THE MINISTER FOR Health will be asked this morning by Senator John Crown about a meeting between the Taoiseach, two ministers and the tobacco industry.
The meeting between the industry members and the Taoiseach Enda Kenny, and Ministers Alan Shatter and Michael Noonan, took place in government buildings a fortnight ago, Arthur Beesley reported in the Irish Times today.
Since the meeting came to light, the Taoiseach has been heavily criticised by both Senator Crown and MEP Nessa Childers. Senator Crown said that he wants to know who arranged the meeting, and told TheJournal.ie that he plans to use his time at the Committee on Health and Children meeting today, at which Minister for Health James Reilly is present, to ask him about the issue today.
He said he does not believe that government should be meeting with the tobacco industry, and that it is “simply unconscionable” that such a meeting occurred. “They are not our partners,” he pointed out.
“This is entirely inappropriate,” said Senator Crown, adding he believes Ireland should be a tobacco-free country by 2030 and that the tobacco industry should be informed about this.
Nessa Childers MEP has condemned Kenny and senior Ministers for not disclosing their meetings with the tobacco industry, which she says breaks terms of a World Health Organisation (WHO) treaty of which Ireland is a signatory.
This is absolutely shocking and shows complete disregard for all in Ireland who campaign for public health issues and against cancer in Ireland. It will be especially embarrassing for the Irish Presidency, which is overseeing the negotiations on the EU Tobacco Products Directive.
The Taoiseach and senior Ministers have met with the industry lobby for John Player, British American Tobacco, and Japan Tobacco International. These meetings happened despite a warning from fellow Health Minister James Reilly last year to his cabinet colleagues of their obligations under the WHO treaty.
Under the WHO framework convention on tobacco control (Article 5.3): “2.2 Where interactions with the tobacco industry are necessary, Parties should ensure that such interactions are conducted transparently. Whenever possible, interactions should be conducted in public, for example through public hearings, public notice of interactions, disclosure of records of such interactions to the public”.
Childers said that “we need to know how and when this terrible industry is lobbying the government, and why”.
The Tobacco Control Directive is now before her Public Health Committee in the parliament, and Childers said they “will be fighting for a strong EU tobacco law”.
The chief executives of Ireland’s largest health charities have written to the Taoiseach to communicate their shock about the meeting.
The Irish Cancer Society and Irish Health Foundation say the meeting “shouldn’t have happened” and that they are “very concerned” about it. They say that the tobacco industry is “not a normal industry and cannot be allowed a seat at the decision-making table”.
The two charities have requested to meet the Taoiseach, Minister Noonan and Minister Shatter as soon as possible.