Sharp exchanges between Martin and Gilmore over tobacco lobbying

Fianna Fáil leader desribes meeting with industry members as ‘disturbing’

Micheál Martin: “The history of the tobacco industry reflects and reveals one of the worst examples of behind-the-scenes lobbying of governments across Europe and the world.” Photograph: Alan Betson

Micheál Martin: “The history of the tobacco industry reflects and reveals one of the worst examples of behind-the-scenes lobbying of governments across Europe and the world.” Photograph: Alan Betson

Thu, May 23, 2013, 19:40

There were heated exchanges in the Dáil between the Tánaiste and the Fianna Fáil leader over a meeting between the Taoiseach, Minister for Finance and Minister for Justice with tobacco industry members. Micheál Martin described as “disturbing” reports of the meeting earlier this month “given that the industry’s sole objective in life is to sell cigarettes and to target young people in particular so that they will become addicted at a very young age”.

Referring to promised legislation on lobbying, the Fianna Fáil leader said “the history of the tobacco industry reflects and reveals one of the worst examples of behind-the-scenes lobbying of governments across Europe and the world”.

Mr Martin, who as minister for health introduced the ban on smoking in public places, questioned why the Taoiseach and two Cabinet members met industry representatives.

Eamon Gilmore said it was part of normal government work to meet industry representatives at different levels.

When Mr Martin retorted that there had been no meetings with the tobacco industry for a long time, the Tánaiste said behind-the-scenes lobbying was a feature of Fianna Fáil governments for a long time. “That’s why we felt it necessary to bring in legislation on the regulation of lobbying,” Mr Gilmore said.

Mr Martin said the Tánaiste should check previous Labour Party officials, who were “the greatest inside-trackers with the tobacco industry for a long time”.

Mr Gilmore said the regulation of lobbyists legislation would be introduced at the end of this year.