I'm beginning to wonder if there's something not entirely legit about the government's decision making process.
I met an old friend on Tuesday evening and we caught up on where we were at. He is in marketing and he must be good at it because he's still in marketing. We'd both had two kids and shared a few years in the same industry. He joked that he'd heard me a few times on radio, wanting to kill everyone with cigarettes.
But when he got serious he asked me about my contacts in government and which politicians I was meeting regularly there. When I told him that I wasn't, he was genuinely shocked. "You mean you are not at the table when decisions are being made?" he asked with raised eyebrows.
I then got a lecture along the lines of it's who you know and not what you know. He's a smoker himself, though he couldn't care less about restrictions and that sort of thing, but he couldn't imagine that government started this "lark" without someone else at the table with them, urging them to do so. He'd heard of ASH and I filled him in on the terrible twins, the Irish Cancer Society and the Irish Heart Foundation. I explained how they or their outriders are the direct advisors to government on so-called 'tobacco control'. So he asked directly why I wasn't forcing my way into the room.
By way of explanation, then, no stakeholders from the other side of the smoking story may be present when Stubbs Reilly sits down with like-minded fools to plot the path of repression. The retailers are not allowed in, the companies hired to make the packaging are not allowed in, I'm not allowed in and, you're not going to believe this, even the tobacco companies are denied a seat at the table. The very industry being regulated is not allowed any hand, act or part in the regulations themselves. No less a person than Stubbs himself has said several times that he wouldn't talk to them and that's that.
Or is it?
Read this document which I got following a Freedom of Information request. It's a letter to Chris Macey of the Irish Heart Foundation from the Tobacco Control Unit (the old OTC). It's clear that it is Department policy to speak with all the stakeholders, so is Reilly on a solo run (again)?
Part of it reads:
I wish to clarify an issue around the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) which appears to be causing some confusion at present. It has been stated on a number of occasions recently, that it is forbidden for Departmental officials and Ministers to meet with representatives of the tobacco industry and that such meetings are illegal. This is incorrect ...
Ireland has signed and ratified the treaty and therefore has obligations under Article 5.3 of the treaty. Non-binding guidelines were developed to assist parties meeting their obligations under Article 5.3. It should be noted that these are non-binding guidelines rather than protocols.
Officials from the Department of Health and Children meet with representatives of the tobacco industry, when such meetings are necessary to effectively regulate the industry and progress tobacco control policies. As regulators of a highly regulated industry, it would be unacceptable for the Department to refuse to meet with the industry that is being regulated. Such meetings do not infringe our obligations under Article 5.3 of the WHO FCTC.