Health Minister James Reilly has risked causing outrage by seemingly linking the tobacco industry to a mysterious Mission Impossible-style robbery at the EU’s tobacco control offices.
The minister made the remark after being questioned by senator and cancer expert, Prof John Crown, over a controversial meeting between leading cigarette firms and members of cabinet this month.
Speaking at the latest Oireachtas health committee yesterday, Dr Reilly said he refused to attend the meeting with tobacco industry officials, who instead met with Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Justice Minister Alan Shatter.
The minister said while he was aware of the meeting he “would not” go to it as cigarettes cause the death of “one out of two” users.
And taking further aim at the industry — which he has previously told the Seanad he has “declared war” on — he appeared to link the sector to a highly-organised Oct 2012 robbery at specific EU offices.
“Last year there was a burglary in the EU offices. They went straight for the office of tobacco control and removed the hard drives of computers.
“Now, who could afford to do that?” he asked.
The comment relates to a still-unsolved robbery at major anti-tobacco industry offices in Brussels.
The incident occurred on the night of Oct 17-18 and affected the EU’s Smoke Free Partnership group, which shares an office with the European Respiratory Society, and the European Public Health Alliance.
During the burglary, several laptops and bank cards were taken.
The previous day, the SFP and EPHA had come out against what was termed the “unprecedented interference by the tobacco industry” on a review of the Tobacco Products Directive — interference which led to the resignation of then EU health commissioner, John Dalli.
Meanwhile, the Irish Cancer Society and Irish Heart Foundation have written to the Taoiseach to express their “shock” at the May 7 meeting he held with tobacco industry officials.
“There is no purpose in governments, their servants or agents meeting the industry except on very narrow regulatory issues,” the two charities warned.
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