Did the Tobacco Industry Arrange for European Commission headquarters in Brussels to be Burgled?
On the night of October 17th/18th last year, burglars targeted three offices housed in an eight- storey office block near the European Commission headquarters in Brussels. They entered through the windows, disabled outdoor sensors and then waited for 45 seconds. They knew where the internal alarm was situated.
They took several laptops, although significantly not the chargers. Clearly it was not the laptops they were after, but the information inside them.
All those organisations have one thing in common – they are all engaged in the business of tobacco control.
Qui bono? Who benefits? Who would be interested in breaking into the offices of NGOs involved in tobacco control and why would the burglars be interested in laptops which had information only of interest to those in the tobacco industry?
In a recent interjection at the Oireachtas committee on health, the Minister for Health James Reilly gave a colourful if not altogether accurate description of the “black ops” involved in that break-in.
“The intruders abseiled down from the roof to the seventh floor of the building, cut holes in the plate-glass window, disabled the alarms and got into the offices.
“There were a number of offices and they went straight to the Office of Tobacco Control and removed all the hard discs from the computers.
“Who could afford to launch such an operation?”
Who indeed? Florence Berteletti Kemp, the director of the Smoke Free Partnership, said those who carried it out were “top professionals” and knew exactly what they were looking for. “I cannot say who did it, but I will leave it to the public imagination,” she said.
Kemp was one of the speakers at last week’s European Week against Cancer conference in the Aviva Stadium.
She said the break-in “delayed our work for at least a week or two”, but was ultimately a futile act because the most critical information was backed up.
The day after the health commissioner John Dalli resigned over a scandal which involved the tobacco industry.
It had been alleged that a friend of his in Malta had sought a large bribe from a Swedish company which makes a tobacco product called Snus citing his influence with Dalli. Dalli has denied any impropriety.
Coincidentally, Dalli was a stern advocate of the tobacco directive which is currently with the Irish presidency of the EU.
Rightly or wrongly, the tobacco industry was blamed for both events but the actions had the opposite effect, according to Kemp.
“I would say that it redoubled our efforts. It has brought the subject of the power of the industry to the parliament. It was a bad idea. It totally backfired on whoever did it.”
Advancing the directive is now in the gift of the Irish presidency and our fiercely anti-smoking Minister for Health Dr Reilly.
He said the break-in made the European Commission aware “that there was a real danger that the tobacco industry had the upper hand on them and clearly the commission is not going to allow that.”
The tobacco directive has a number of main provisions. The first is to outlaw cigarettes such as those flavoured with, for example, menthol or vanilla; the second is to ensure that health warnings cover at least 75 per cent of the pack face, although some countries want it smaller than that; and the third is to ban so-called slim cigarettes which are mainly marketed at women.
It does not include provision for plain packaging which will be brought in by Ireland unilaterally.
While there is broad agreement on the need for tobacco control, tobacco manufacturing is a big industry in countries such as Greece, Spain, the Czech Republic and Poland.
Dr Reilly acknowledged that there was “very serious” opposition from certain countries, particularly Poland which has Europe’s second largest tobacco industry.
He said the goal of the Irish presidency was to get an agreed position on the directive at European Commission level and then take it to the parliament for approval.
“I’m a great believer in doing what is pragmatic and doing what is quick rather than try to hold out for the perfection that never comes your way,” he said. “There is a real sense that this is an important initiative and it has to be done.”
The Lithuanian presidency, which takes over from Ireland in July, will now be charged with bringing the directive forward.
“The Lithuanian presidency is very supportive of this and they are determined to lead the charge, but it is very difficult to know when it will come into force,” the Minister concluded.
Dr Reilly said he lost his brother, a doctor and smoker, to lung cancer and his father, another smoker, suffered a stroke and was prematurely blind for the last 14 years of his life.
Ireland will become the second country in the world, after Australia, to remove branding from tobacco product packaging.
The cabinet signed off on Dr Reilly’s proposal today and it is expected legislation will be in place by early next year.
All forms of branding, including trademarks, logos, colours and graphics, will be removed from cigarette packets, while brand name will be presented in a uniform typeface for all brands and the packs would all be in one plain neutral colour. Health warnings will be given more prominence.
The Department of Health said there is strong evidence that standardised packaging will increase the effectiveness of health warnings; reduce false health beliefs about cigarettes and reduce brand appeal particularly among youth and young adults.
Dr Reilly was critical of the recent meeting involving the Taoiseach, Minister for Finance and Minister for Justice with the tobacco industry, but he expressed satisfaction with the substance of the meeting.
“The minutes of the meeting will show very clearly that all that was discussed was smuggling and nothing else,” he said.
“The Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance have duties broader than mine in relation to health. I can tell you this much – the fact that the cabinet has passed a motion to pursue a law to bring this bill in is sign enough for me that I have got huge support from the Taoiseach and the Government.
“For me as a professional, this (smoking) is something that is intolerable. We have to protect our children from it. As adults we make our own decisions, but when you are an adult and you are addicted it is very hard to give them up.”
Dr Reilly said the measure has been so successful in Australia that tobacco companies have had to release statements saying that their cigarettes had not changed in taste as many of its customers were complaining about the taste.
A fierce critic of the tobacco industry, Dr Reilly said the industry needed to replace those who have died from tobacco-related illnesses, one-in-two who smoke, with young people who start smoking.
Dr Reilly said he was certain that the tobacco industry would seek to challenge the plain packaging in the courts.
However, he said such a move would be a measure of their desperation and also of the effectiveness of the measure.
The Irish Tobacco Manufacturers Advisory Committee said the initiative was a huge boost to the illegal tobacco industry, claiming the proposed legislation would make all packs look the same allowing counterfeiters to produce all brands of illegal cigarettes with greater ease.
Dr Reilly countered by stating there was “no research, none” to back up assertions by the tobacco industry that plain packaging would lead to increases in smuggling.
“Let’s call a spade a spade. What would you call a product that kills one in two users? Purveyors of death – I really do feel very strongly about this. I don’t know any smoker who wants their child to smoke. How can we support this industry?”
As he left the conference hall following his address, some delegates chanted: “no more cuts.”
One delegate, Bolatito Aderemi from the Dublin South West branch, started to sing: “All we are saying is enough is enough.
As he passed her Dr Reilly said she should “stick to her day job”.
A number of delegates objected to the Minister’s comments and said the union should seek an apology.
Dr Reilly later met with Ms Aderami privately and apologised.
He said he had made a quip as he left the hall. He said he had been informed that someone had taken offence. He said he had not intended to offend anyone.
Ms Aderemi, who is originally from Nigeria, said the Minister had shaken her hand, tried to give her a hug and said he was sorry and did not mean to embarrass her. She said she accepted his apology.
Dr Reilly had been greeted in silence as he arrived at the conference. However he received applause following an anouncement that nurses would hold senior leadership positions inthe proposed new hospital groups and in the Department of Health.
He said each of the proposed new hospital groups, to be announced formally next week, will have to have a director of nursing as a full executive on the management team.
“I will (also) establish a new chief nursing officer role within the Department of Health, that this role will be at assistant secretary level and a full member of the management advisory committee and will have executive authority to lead the nursing profession in Ireland and represent its perspective both to Government and internationally.”
Dr Reilly told delegates that pay savings of €150 million had to achieved in the HSE this yearin addition to the many reforms and efficiencies designed to improve servies and to live within its budget.
“Frankly, we are between a rock and a hard place.”
The Minister said that management and unions were meeting at the Labour Relations Comission to explore all the avenues open to try to reach a resolution to reducing the paybill.
“If we can find such anagreement it would be so much better than an imposed solution.
However he said the country was borrowing €1 billion per month and that this could not continue.
yesterday at 3:36 pm
We don’t know if Minister for Health James Reilly is claustrophobic but he was certainly tested on that score today.
As you can see, thanks to this tweet by journalist Sara Burke (@sburx), his predicament drew quite a crowd.
Various reports suggests that Reilly was trapped for between 10 and 20 minutes before emerging to officially launch the facility.
Rumours of sabotage from disgruntled public service workers are only the tip of the Twitter joke iceberg on this one.
More medical card cuts on the way
However, further as yet unspecified cuts to medical card entitlements for other age groups are also due to take place next year and are to be revealed in the HSE‘s forthcoming 2013 service plan.
The Department of Health old irishhealth.com are to be changes to the medical card means test next year, but so far no precise details of this have emerged. The Government had been under pressure from the Troika to tighten up on medical card eligibility.
Minister, Reilly, having promised on coming to office last year that he would abolish the 50 cent medical card prescription charge, has now trebled it to €1.50 per prescription item, subject to a monthly maximum charge of €19.50 per family. This increase has been ‘due to the current financial climate’.
Under the over 70s medical card changes, the Minister said 92% of over 70s will still have medical cards, while 5% will no longer have a full card but will qualify for a GP visit card, while the wealthiest 3% will have neither card, which is the same percentage as at present.
Dr Reilly said single over 70s earning €600 to €700 per week will lose their entitlement to a full medical card, while those earning over €700 per week already do not qualify for a card, following the last review of eligibility in 2009. The new thresholds are double for elderly couples.
Elderly people who will be downgraded to a GP visit card will now have to pay drug costs up to €144 per month, following a new rise in the drug payment scheme threshold.
GPs and other professionals providing services under the medical card and other State schemes are to have their fees cut further.
Dr Reilly told a press conference on the health measures in the Budget that €781 million will have to extracted from the health service in savings next year.
By the end of 2013, this will bring the amount cut from the health service in the previous four years to around €3.3 billion. The service is to get €13.626 billion for everyday expenditure next year.
According to the Department of Public Expenditure, this will be reduced to €13.420 billion in 2014, when further health cuts will be required.
However, Dr Reilly said the lesson over the past year had been that by reforming services, more had been done with fewer resources, with inpatient waiting lists and trolley numbers reduced. He admitted, however, that next year would pose great difficulties.
Dr Reilly stressed the need to promote a greater level of generic prescribing. He said there were some drugs that were of the same class that were one-third the price of the other drugs in that class.
There would be legislation and initiatives to promote more generic prescribing.
The bulk of the €781 million in savings will come from €323 million in primary care scheme savings – this includes the medical card scheme.
The projected savings of €323 million in primary care schemes will come from:
* A projected €120 million from agreements with the pharmaceutical industry on drug cost cuts.
* A projected €70m from reductions in fees to primary care health professionals.
* €50m from the increase in prescription charges.
* €20m from changes to medical card means test.
* €12m from replacement of medical cards with GP visit cards for persons over 70 in excess of certain income limits.
* €10m from increasing the threshold in the Drugs Payment Scheme.
* €15m from ‘delisting’ certain products from the medical card scheme.
* €20m from promotion of more cost-effective prescribing practices by GPs and consultants.
* €5m from a reduction in reimbursement prices of oral nutritional supplements.
The remainder of the total €781 million in health service savings will come mainly from ‘pay related savings’, as yet unspecified; increased generation of private income from public hospitals – a measure that was promised for 2012; a net saving on the Department’s vote, and savings in procurement.
Dr Reilly declined to be drawn specifically on what pay savings in health might arise from an extension to the Croke Park Agreement. However, areas such as rostering were being looked at.
Asked what level of cuts in their allocation hospitals might face next year, Minister Reilly said there would be details of hospital allocations in the HSE’s service plan when published.
Minister of State at the Department of Health Alex White indicated that the €20 million planned to be spent on primary care staffing this year but which was reallocated to cover the HSE’s deficit would be spent next year. However, there is no specific provision for this expenditure in 2013 in the Book of Estimates.
Funding is to be allocated for the initial phase of the planned free GP care scheme for people with certain long-term conditions, Mr White said.
Minister of State Kathleen Lynch said a further €35 million would be spent on mental health services next year. She said all of the €35 million allocated for development of these services in 2012 was not spent.
[Posted: Wed 05/12/2012]
The leader of Ireland’s parliamentary opposition, Mr Martin said he had been looking for information on the location of the 20 primary care centre sites for months, while it appears the Labour partnership in the Coalition Government was facilitating a cover-up. It would appear their partners in the so called media of the left such as Indymedia Ireland are also involved in censorship, to protect their former Stalinist comrade now private healthcare lobbyist, Gilmore.
Gilmore’s Criminal Private Healthcare Buddy
The leader of Ireland’s parliamentary opposition, Mr Martin said he had been looking for information on the location of the 20 primary care centre sites for months, while it appears the Labour partnership in the Coalition Government was facilitating a cover-up.
“It took us some months through the Freedom of Information act to get this very basic information, which I have been asking for in the Dáil for the last number of months, I asked the Tánaiste in the Dáil could he produce and would he publish this documentation immediately and of course they refused. The freedom of information request was delayed for a further month, which really illustrates complete contempt for the Dáil, a blatant lack of transparency and we now know why.”
As reported by The Irish Times of last Saturday, Swords and Balbriggan were added the day before the announcement of the chosen sites, while Ballaghaderreen and Kilkenny were put on the list, just hours before it was announced. Indymedia Ireland are also censoring material related to this cover-up, along with censoring material initially published but later removed, related to the murder in a Galway hospital, of a mother refused an abortion, to save her life. Indymedia Ireland are also involved in massive censorship of matters relating to Marian Price, with the removal of a family statement on the seriously deteriorating health of this political internee.
�Shortall who resigned from her post in the Labour coalition on principle, said at the weekend this revelation showed “blatant stroke politics” were behind the decision. Dr Reilly “started off by assisting some of his colleagues and looking after some of his colleagues, and then at the last minute slipping in another four, two of which were in his own constituency.This documentation gives the lie to the many convoluted excuses and justifications that Minister Reilly and his colleagues gave in the Dáil and elsewhere to claim that there was some other criteria used .. other than pure political patronage.”
In October Dr Reilly told the Dáil, that the rationale behind the decision on primary care centres chosen, were made from a list with a “logistical logarithmic progression”. Ms Shortall said the documents demonstrated this justification to be “codswallop”. Likewise the bullscutter on a abortion and the censorshit of Indymedia Ireland relative to Marian Price and Eamon Gilmore, has a distinct whiff of the old sticky, RTE, Brit censorshit contagion. They are a disgraceful example of the sell out of the Irish working class both in parliament and in the Irish media in the closed shop of passes for politics in the clearly unfree Irish state that is compromised to secret dark forces.
The orginal vote of no confindence was called after it was reported that a list of primary care centre sites was altered the evening before its launch to include four new centres, two of which were in Dr Reilly’s constituency. The two centres, located in Swords and Balbriggan, were added to the priority list despite them not being located in the top 30 locations drawn up by the HSE and then minister Róisín Shortall.
Meanwhile Reilly has the neck to insist this morning, that he stood by his actions. “I have made it very clear that I stand over what I did and if I had to do it all again I’d do what I did, there is very clearly a need for primary care centres in all of the locations mentioned.” Mr Martin said he had been trying to get this most basic of information on the location of the centres for several months. Provisional Sinn Féin made new calls or Dr Reilly’s resignation with party health spokesman Caoimhghin O Caolain saying Reily’s position was untenable following the revelations about the timing of the amendments to the primary care centre priority list. He said the plan needed to be revisited and revised in a publicly accountable way to ensure there was no bias involved in the allocation of the centres.”
Eamon Gilmore who has firmly supported Reilly, should also resign immediately, along with all of the agents involved in systematic media censorship in Ireland, of all articles related to the progressive resolution of problems stemming from ignorance in Ireland, as a result of persistent censorship in both the corporate and infiltrated media of Ireland.
Related Link: http://irishblog-irelandblog.blogspot.com/
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore says he has full faith in Dr James Reilly
Related Link: http://podcastireland-irishblog.blogspot.com/
Two locations in Minister for Health James Reilly’s north Dublin constituency were added to a list of places chosen for primary care centres on the evening before they were announced by the Government, newly released documents reveal.
Further changes were made to the list including the addition of Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon, and Kilkenny just hours before the list of centres was announced as part of the Government’s stimulus package last July, the documents obtained under freedom of information show.
Last September, The Irish Times revealed that Swords and Balbriggan were added to the priority list announced by Dr Reilly as part of the stimulus package, despite the fact that they did not feature in a list of the top 30 locations drawn up by the HSE and his then minister of state, Róisín Shortall.
Swords, Balbriggan, Kilkenny and Ballaghaderreen all ranked outside the top 35 in the list of priority locations drawn up by Ms Shortall and HSE officials, which was weighted towards the most deprived areas of the country.
Swords ranked 130th in this list while Balbriggan ranked 44th. Ballaghaderreen, which was the subject of lobbying by two Government politicians, ranked 244th, while Kilkenny was ranked in 151st position.
The issue has proved hugely controversial for Dr Reilly and the Government ever since. Ms Shortall resigned in September and later described the addition of the two locations in north Dublin to her original list as “stroke politics”.
The documents reveal a flurry of last-minute changes in July after the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) told the Department of Health for the first time that the locations would be published at the time of the stimulus announcement.
At that point, on July 16th, 33 locations were on the list. However, the Department of Health then drew up its “final list”. A memo sent to DPER at 8pm on that day – the day before the announcement – submitted a new list with Swords, Balbriggan and Oranmore added, and South Dublin removed.
The following day another memo from the Department of Health, marked “urgent – revisions”, stated that there were “changes to last night’s list”.
“There are now 36 locations. Ballaghaderreen is new . . . Kilkenny is new, Castlecomer is out, Oranmore is out,” the memo stated. It was sent at 11:55am, almost 1½ hours after that week’s Cabinet meeting started.
The documents do not show the rationale Dr Reilly employed in altering the original list, but the Minister has said he made his decisions based on a number of factors, including the likelihood of GP buy-in to the plans.
The official files also show that last month the secretary general of the Department of Health Ambrose McLoughlin asked its internal audit unit to “ascertain any connection that links the Minister and/or his four advisers in relation to the selection of the sites for the Balbriggan and Swords primary care centres”. This followed claims that a supporter of Dr Reilly owned the site of a proposed centre in Balbriggan.
Dr Reilly rejected any suggestion of impropriety in the selection of the site. He said this had nothing to do with him.
Fianna Fáil health spokesman Billy Kelleher said last night the new information posed serious questions for Dr Reilly and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore. He said the Tánaiste told the Dáil there was documentation which could be sought under freedom of information on the background to Mr Reilly’s decision. Mr Kelleher said nowhere in documents released did this explanation exist. A spokesman for the Minister did not return calls last night.
THE top civil servant in the Department of Health launched a probe into his own minister, Dr James Reilly, in the wake of the controversy over the decision to locate two primary care centres in his constituency.
Ambrose McLoughlin, the department’s secretary general, ordered an investigation after revelations in the Irish Independent that a supporter of Dr Reilly owned the site of a proposed primary care centre in Balbriggan, Co Dublin.
The revelation that Mr McLoughlin moved to investigate his own minister will heap further pressure on Dr Reilly, who has faced criticism over his handling of the Savita Halappanavar tragedy and HSE overspending.
Informed sources said it was Mr McLoughlin’s “sole decision” to launch the probe and Dr Reilly was aware it had been launched.
The move by Mr McLoughlin to initiate an investigation into the matter came as Mr Reilly was facing intense scrutiny over the controversial decision.
Minister for Health James Reilly is breaking the law and rejecting international human rights principles by failing to remove an upper age limit for an allowance to people with disabilities, according to a report by Ombudsperson Emily O’Reilly.
Minister for Health James Reilly is breaking the law and rejecting international human rights principles, by failing to remove an upper age limit for an allowance to people with disabilities, according to a report by Ombudsperson Emily O’Reilly.
She says it, “raises fundamental questions about the strength of our commitment to international human rights norms.
The continued failure of the department to tackle this issue, suggests it has a very weak sense of the importance of supporting human rights principles and indeed, a very weak sense of the rule of law and of its obligation to act in accordance with the law.’
Ms O’Reilly further said, “I have sympathy for the Government and the rest of us who are about to come under the cosh with €3.5 billion reduction in terms of the money that can be spent on public services but I think it is simply unacceptable for the State to act outside the law.
I think basically they are trying to string this out. They have to remove the cap.”
Ms O’Reilly also said, that when the scheme was originally introduced in 1979 the upper age limit was legal, however when the Equal Status Act became legislation in 2000, the State could no longer discriminate on grounds of age.The report also says the O’Reilly’s department, has been operating a scheme for the past 12 years, on the basis of a condition that was illegal and that it has known to be illegal for the past four years. Despite having agreed last year to remove the upper age limit from the scheme, it failed to do so. As a consequence, it has knowingly allowed the scheme to continue in operation on the basis of an illegality.
Earlier this month, Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett found that his party colleague had failed to answer a question from Sinn Féin health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin about the criteria he used to identify 35 priority locations for the centres announced last July.
Last week, Mr Barrett ruled that Dr Reilly had again failed to answer a question, this time from Labour backbencher Robert Dowds.
Mr Dowds had asked why a proposed primary care centre at Rowlagh in his constituency, which was originally slated to be funded under the Government’s capital programme, was now to be developed by public-private partnership.
This followed the revelation in September that Dr Reilly had added 15 locations, including two in his own constituency, to a list of priority locations for such centres.
After the Minister referred his inquiry to the Health Service Executive, Mr Dowds queried his compliance with Dáil standing orders in a letter to the Ceann Comhairle. Mr Barrett found that the Labour TD’s request for information had not been addressed, and sought a response from Dr Reilly.
The Minister replied that it was unfortunate that the detailed information sought by Mr Dowds was not furnished by his department at the time.
He said the department was not in a position to do so based on the information on its files alone and it had therefore referred the matter to the HSE for an answer.
He went on to say that Rowlagh was never included in a capital plans and was not included on the 2012 capital plan submitted to the department.
The delivery method for a potential primary care centre in Rowlagh changed in lists reported in the media and published by the department as part of the Government’s stimulus package announced last July, he said. This change occurred on the advice of the HSE’s head of estates as a public-private partnership was considered the fastest way to make progress.
According to the Ceann Comhairle, Standing Order 40A of the Dáil does not require ministers to provide information requested by a TD. It does, however, require that each and every request for information be addressed in the minister’s reply.
In response to questions from other TDs on the same issue, Dr Reilly said the consideration of projects for inclusion in the capital programme was “an evolving process”. Details of the next programme will be published
The minister has been accused of stroke politics in recent weeks, after two towns in his Dublin North constituency — Balbriggan and Swords — were added to a list of locations for primary care centres.
Yesterday it was confirmed that a meeting with NAMA took place on April 20 and a number of primary care locations were discussed, including Balbriggan.”However, no specific address was mentioned,” stressed Dr Reilly.
He added: “Within its commercial remit NAMA advises that it is at all times open to proposals which can contribute to the achievement of broader social and economic objectives. In this context many issues of interest to the health services were discussed.”
A spokesman for the minister said there had been “no discussion of any specific primary care site — NAMA would be precluded from so doing”.
But Mr Doherty raised further questions about whether Minister for Health James Reilly was “hands-on with the issue of the selection of a primary care centre site in Balbriggan”.
He added: “Why did Minister Reilly not divulge this information before now?”
He said the minister had repeatedly stated that he had nothing to do with the choice of the site for the Balbriggan primary care centre.
During an Oireachtas debate in September, Dr Reilly said:”I had no hand, act nor part in this.”
The recent controversy over the location of primary care centres escalated after it was revealed that a Fine Gael associate, Seamus Murphy, originally owned the site in Balbriggan chosen for the primary care building.
However, it later transpired the site was in NAMA and the original owner would not benefit from its sale.
Mr Doherty said there continued to be unanswered questions about the Balbriggan site.