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Ireland's investment body could be stopped investing in tobacco - but doesn't invest very much in tobacco

The NTMA’s investments in the companies are made through fund managers.

Image: PA Wire/PA Images

A LAW HAS been proposed that would see Ireland’s Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) banned from investing in tobacco companies.

The proposal was floated by Fianna Fáil Seanad Spokesperson on Health and Mental Health, Dr Keith Swanick.

Under questioning by the Seanad in October, Minister of State Eoghan Murphy confirmed that the taxpayer, through the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) and ISIF has equity holdings in three separate tobacco companies.

Swanick says that situation cannot be allowed to continue.

His Public Health (Prohibition of Tobacco Investments) Bill 2016 would make it illegal for the continuation of investments such as these and would ensure that no further investment in tobacco companies can take place with taxpayer’s money.

“This is a shocking situation and it is not tenable for the Government to turn a blind eye to these investments in tobacco companies. It is incredible to believe that the state holds investment in tobacco companies and it makes a complete mockery of the stated objectives of a tobacco free Ireland by 2025, the cornerstone of ‘Tobacco Free Ireland’.”

However, just 0.02% of ISIF’s total assets are invested in tobacco firms and, a spokesperson told TheJournal.ie, they may not continue investing in them anyway.

“Historically, exclusion has not been part of ISIF’s Responsible Investment strategy – with the only exclusions from the Fund being mandated by legislation. To date, the Cluster Munitions and Anti-Personnel Mines Act (2008) is the only relevant legislation and the ISIF operates a prohibited securities list of 19 companies on this basis.

ISIF management and the NTMA Board’s Investment Committee are currently reviewing the Sustainability and Responsible Investment Policy to examine the potential of adding to the list of excluded investment categories. This process is expected to be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2017.
In relation to investment in tobacco companies, on the basis of preliminary and unaudited figures for end Quarter 3 2016 i.e. as at 30 September 2016 ISIF had equity holdings in three tobacco companies with a value of €1.5 million or 0.02% of its total assets.

The state also has small equity investments in international companies involved in the development of armaments, such as Canadian group Bombardier, French firms Thales and Boeing, and the US’s Airbus Group and United Technologies.

The NTMA’s investments in the companies are made through fund managers, rather than the organisation actively selecting the firms or industries.

Read: Tobacco, alcohol and weaponry – here’s where some of the state’s investment has been flowing

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