Fianna Fáil Seanad Spokesperson on Health and Mental Health Dr. Keith Swanick has called on An Tánaiste and Minister for Justice & Equality Frances Fitzgerald to bring an end to the investment of taxpayer’s money in tobacco companies in organisations under her remit.

Speaking in Seanad Éireann today, Senator Swanick said, “It has been confirmed by An Tánaiste that two organisations under her remit – the Charities Regulatory Authority and the Courts Service – have investments in the tobacco industry. This information came to light as a result of the questioning of each Government Minister by Fianna Fáil T.D Jack Chambers.

“This information flies in the face of the action taken by the Minister for Finance who worked to ensure that the NTMA carried out it’s divestment of tobacco investments last December. It’s not tenable for the Government and An Tánaiste to turn a blind eye to what is happening in the organisations that her Department is responsible for. It is completely unacceptable for taxpayers’ money to be used to support the commercial viability of the tobacco industry.

“As a doctor I believe that it is unconscionable that public funds would be invested in tobacco companies. It does, I believe, make a mockery of the stated Government objectives of making Ireland Tobacco Free by 2025, the cornerstone of ‘Tobacco Free Ireland’.

“What is even more disappointing was the response from the Government during a Seanad debate when the Minister effectively passed the buck. It’s not good enough for the Government to abdicate responsibility to the state agencies that fall under their remit.

“It is worth remembering that tobacco illness is the leading cause of preventable death in Ireland with 6,000 people dying every year. As well as the human and personal tragedies of each death, tobacco is an enormous strain on our health system. The direct cost, an estimated €500 million per year, does not include lost productivity from ill-health and other huge drains on our public services”.