US Interference With Ireland’s Plain Packaging of Tobacco Legislation

[Speaking in the Seanad during Order of Business]

Nigella Lawson, a person who is greatly admired by many Members of these Houses, Kate Moss, the Gallagher brothers, Noel and Liam, and Russell Brand all have something in common. They have all been prevented or impeded from entering the United States because they have either had a prior record or made a public admission of using rather illegal drugs. The American attitude to such behaviour is sometimes seen as quite draconian. If reciprocity was in place it would mean that none of the last three Presidents of the United States would have been allowed to enter the United Kingdom, because they have all, to a greater or lesser extent, or with greater or lesser degrees of frankness, admitted having interactions with illicit drugs, albeit, in the case of President Clinton, without inhaling.

Deputy Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan, our newly elected MEP, is a man who has done a remarkably good job for his constituency and a person for whom I have a lot of admiration, even if I do not always agree with him.

If an Irish person decided tomorrow to openly admit that he or she had sold death-causing addictive drugs in the United States, he or she would be in real trouble when trying to get into the US. I strongly suspect that the FBI would launch subpoenas in American law and have them extradited. Yesterday, it came out in the papers that Thomas Donohue, the head of the United States Chamber of Commerce, based in Washington, had been in contact with the Taoiseach, probably on more than one occasion, in an attempt to influence the Cabinet’s decision on the Minister of Health’s plain packaging tobacco Bill. It now also transpires that five other business interests represented by Mr. Donohue have contacted the Irish Government. I ask the Leader to find out from the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade whether such contact contravenes the UN framework convention on tobacco control. The framework legally sets out very specific guidelines for the tobacco industry, or those representing the tobacco industry, on how they can interact with governments. I ask the Leader to think of an appropriate response from this House but I do not know whether we can do it as a cross-party motion or whatever. I want him to send a letter to Mr. Donohue telling him in the strongest possible terms that he has no business encouraging the sale of cancer-causing chemicals for profit to children in our country, and if he continues to do so he will have to answer to us.

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