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Investment of Taxpayers money in tobacco firms objectionable says Ó Caoláin

28 January, 2004

Speaking at the Joint Finance and Public Service Committee today, Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin questioned the investment procedures of the National Pension Reserve Fund, saying it was "most objectionable" for the Fund to be investing in the tobacco industry and the defence industry. Donal Geaney, Chairperson of the Fund, admitted in answer to a question from Deputy Ó Caoláin that there are "no ethical guidelines" for investment.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said: "One of the companies in which the Fund has shares is the Imperial Tobacco Group in Britain. It is most objectionable that Irish taxpayers' money should be invested in the tobacco industry. We are attempting to combat the massive public health scourge that is tobacco consumption, yet here public money is being invested in one of the largest cigarette manufacturers and distributors in the world.

"True to its name, Imperial Tobacco is aggressively expanding its operations in Africa where consumption is growing as it falls in Europe. I don't have to outline the public health consequences for the impoverished countries of Africa. As a Fund owned by the Irish people I do not believe our money should be invested in this industry, nor do I believe it ethical to do so given that our Government is rigorously enforcing a ban on smoking in this country for reasons of health protection allegedly.

"Imperial Tobacco is just one company. I note also on the list is CAE Inc. in Canada which is one of the world's top 100 defence corporations. I think it is also objectionable that this Fund, owned by the Irish people, should be investing in the international arms trade. Do we not constantly hear that Ireland is a neutral country?

"The chairperson of the National Pension Reserve Fund has admitted to me that there are no ethical guidelines for the Fund's investment portfolio. The Government should immediately rectify this and ensure such guidelines are setdown for the fund managers." ENDS

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