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Opinion: Reilly's 'Last Act' Could Saddle Ireland With Massive Legal Bills

Published on Jun 11 2014 7:49 AM in Retail

Opinion: Reilly's 'Last Act' Could Saddle Ireland With Massive Legal Bills

If, as is widely expected, Health Minister James Reilly is 'moved on' in the forthcoming Cabinet reshuffle, his last significant act - getting Cabinet approval for plain packaging proposals - will not be the legacy he is most remembered for.

In recent weeks, the medical card debacle, the massive hole in health service funding, and renewed criticism over plans to introduce Universal Health Insurance have put the Minister in what many believe to be an untenable position.

Indeed, on the day his Fine Gael colleague Alan Shatter resigned from Cabinet, there were strong rumours Reilly would follow suit. “Let me put it this way — rumours of my resignation have been greatly exaggerated," he told reporters.

Yesterday's announcement on plain packaging marked a 'positive' for Reilly and his team, on an issue that he has campaigned about for many years, and has a strong vested personal interest in.

But we Irish are a cynical people, and while the Minister describes the move as a "significant step forward in our tobacco control policy", the wider catastrophe that is the public health service needs a lot more than 'sticking plaster solutions'.

Should plain packaging be enacted, it is likely that tobacco companies will mount a massive legal challenge against the government, burdening the State with legal bills that will inevitably be passed onto the taxpayer.

The illicit trade will increase, widening the hole in the government's excise take, and necessitating further tax increases in other areas.

Finally, the legislation could impact Ireland's reputation as a free, open economy in which to do business; redefining us as a nation which keeps intellectual property on a short leash. The fact that the Chamber of Commerce in the US has already spoken out against Ireland's plans on plain packaging, for this very reason, should be taken seriously.

What looks like being a short-term 'win' for the government could have a long-lasting hangover.

© 2014 - Checkout Magazine by Stephen Wynne-Jones

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