James Reilly attacks legal firm over tobacco link
Children's Minister James Reilly said it is not appropriate for legal firm Arthur Cox to represent tobacco firms and State agencies under the aegis of his department.
Mr Reilly is reviewing the relationship between the State's child and family agency Tulsa and the firm representing Japan Tobacco Ireland, which is threatening legal action against the Government if it introduces plain packaging for cigarettes.
The company also provides legal services to the Health Service Executive.
Mr Reilly said he has a "problem" with Arthur Cox continuing to provide legal advice to the State agency if it is representing tobacco firms, which he said put the lives of people at risk.
"I am very concerned about a perceived or real conflict of interest here of legal firms representing both sides in a hugely high stakes situation like this," Mr Reilly said.
"We are fighting for the future of our children and the health of our nation against the determination of Imperial Tobacco and Japan Tobacco International to increase their profits at the cost of people's health in this country."
The minister added: "I fail to see how we send the right message by employing legal firms that are prepared to represent the tobacco industry, whose history in this area is quite appalling, to be quite frank.
"Their inability to come out and tell the truth time after time has been quite shocking frankly and we are going to stand firm against them."
Mr Reilly called on all legal firms to come out and say they would not represent tobacco firms.
John Player, which is part of the Imperial Tobacco Group, and Japan Tobacco Ireland said it would bring the Government to the High Court if it did not abandon plans to introduce plain packaging for cigarettes.
The companies claim the new law is a breach of their intellectual property rights and will lead to an increase in cigarette smuggling.