Fianna Fáil Finance spokesperson Michael McGrath has described as utterly hypocritical the fact that the State holds over €50m in investments in tobacco, defence and alcohol stocks given recent legislation that has been introduced in relation to cigarette packaging and planned changes to laws governing alcohol pricing.
As well as having €9.6m invested in tobacco firms, figures supplied to Fianna Fáil indicate that the National Pension Reserve Fund also held €14.1m in aerospace & defence industry stocks and €27.1m in alcohol firms in January of this year.
Deputy McGrath commented, “These figures highlight the extraordinary double standards of the government on the issue of tobacco in particular, but also on alcohol and armaments. On the one hand, Minister James Reilly has ‘declared war’ on the tobacco industry and described it as ‘evil’ while on the other hand the government is giving the tobacco industry a boost by actively investing in it. The government’s approach to tobacco is completely hypocritical. The Taoiseach and senior government Ministers have met with the tobacco industry, the State is investing in tobacco companies while the HSE and other government Ministers are ‘taking on’ the industry. It is not credible for the government to have its snout in the tobacco industry trough while at the same time tackling what is a powerful vested interest.
“There is a strong case for the NPRF to review its ethical investment strategy and completely screen out stocks in harmful industries such as tobacco and armaments until such time as the fund completes its transition to investment in the domestic economy. This type of ethical strategy has been successfully implemented in countries such as Norway and would ensure the state is not seen as complicit in their activities.
“We cannot continue to have a situation where the state is seeking to encourage people to quit smoking or reduce their alcohol intake while at the same time seeking to profit from companies making these products. The state should be seen to take a lead in this regard.”