Tobacco spokesman cannot remember informant

 

A TOBACCO industry spokesman yesterday told an Oireachtas committee he could not remember who gave him information about a meeting of a Department of Health working group in 1994.

The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children had called Mr Flor O'Mahony, director of the Irish Tobacco Manufacturers' Advisory Committee (ITMAC), to explain how he got details of the proceedings of the working group, the Consultative Committee on Smoking in the Workplace.

Yesterday's meeting heard an allegation from the Fine Gael health spokesman, Mr Alan Shatter, that the tobacco industry tried to "infiltrate" the working group. It also heard a call from Senator Pat Gallagher (Labour) for the introduction of a register of lobbyists and of the people in public life with whom they have contact.

Mr Shatter said it seemed to him that information on a meeting of the Department of Health working group had been provided to Mr O'Mahony by Mr Sean Beary, of the Irish Business and Employers' Confederation (IBEC). Mr Beary told The Irish Times yesterday he has nothing to say on the matter.

Yesterday's meeting was one of a number arising from the discovery by Dr Fenton Howell, vice-president of the Irish Medical Organisation, of a document on the Internet. The document consisted of a memo by Mr O'Mahony detailing what happened at a meeting of the working group in January 1994. The memo names some members of the group and states their positions.

After Dr Howell brought the memo to its attention, the committee called Mr Chris Fitzgerald, the Department of Health official who chaired the working group. Mr Fitzgerald described the leak as outrageous and said it was certainly not done by anyone from the Department of Health.

At yesterday's meeting, Mr O'Mahony, a former Labour senator, said he had "periodic contacts" with representatives of IBEC and of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions on the working group. On the meeting in question, he said: "I do not recall at this distance in time who or how many persons I may have spoken to on this particular occasion."