Act Two of plain packaging drama unfolds as spotlight falls on legal advisers

Arthur Cox asked how it can reconcile work for HSE and Japan Tobacco

A JTI legal missive to Ministers Jame Reilly and Leo Varadkar – and copied to Taoiseach Enda Kenny – went under the Arthur Cox letterhead and was signed by the company. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

A JTI legal missive to Ministers Jame Reilly and Leo Varadkar – and copied to Taoiseach Enda Kenny – went under the Arthur Cox letterhead and was signed by the company. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

 

An arbitrary deadline set by Japan Tobacco for the Government to halt draft laws on plain cigarette packaging expires tomorrow. With the legislation not yet enacted, Japan Tobacco International has threatened via its Irish subsidiary to immediately sue ministers James Reilly and Leo Varadkar.

This is Act One in the drama, and it is difficult at this point to see how the Government could back down in the face of an intervention to scrap parliamentary passage of legislation signed off by Cabinet with the imprimatur of the Attorney General. Given the nature of court action, it could take years for this element of the story to reach its ultimate conclusion.

Act Two in the drama opened yesterday and it concerns Arthur Cox, legal adviser to JTI Ireland but also to the Health Service Executive.

For the avoidance of any doubt, a JTI legal missive to Drs Reilly and Varadkar – and copied to Taoiseach Enda Kenny – went under the Arthur Cox letterhead and was signed by the company.

At issue now is how the legal firm, one of the biggest and most powerful solicitors in the land, reconciles its work for JTI and its work for the HSE and a clutch of other public health bodies.

The HSE, which has received no notification from Arthur Cox in relation to JTI Ireland, has questions.

Arthur Cox’s work for the Government doesn’t end there. Other clients, according to its website, include the Local Government Management Agency, the National Educational Welfare Board, the Railway Procurement Agency, the Dublin Port Company, Dublin City University, Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin and “most” Institutes of Technology.

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