Howlin tells Reilly officials are not obliged to meet tobacco firms
The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has provided assurances to Children's Minister James Reilly (pictured) that his officials are under no obligation to meet representatives of the tobacco industry.
Tobacco firms have been frustrated over Dr Reilly's refusal to engage with them over his plans to introduce plain packaging. JTI Ireland, owner of the Benson & Hedges and Silk Cut brands, is challenging the measures in the courts.
But in a letter to the department, the firm claimed that it was "imperative" that it meets with the Government over its tobacco policy.
The firm said the new Lobbying Act ensured that lobbyists would be "protected from unfair and arbitrary exclusion", adding: "As one of the most heavily regulated sectors in Ireland, it is imperative that we meet with the regulator to communicate our position on proposed policy or legislation."
But the Department of Public Expenditure said the act did not place any obligation on departments to meet lobbyists.
It added: "It is a policy matter for public officials themselves to determine whether and how they engage with those seeking to lobby them."