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Minister needs to ensure Ireland retains sovereignty in public health – Ó Caoláin

16 July, 2015 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD

Sinn Féin TD and Health Spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has called on the Minister for Health to address a deeply concerning report commissioned by the Irish Cancer Society (ICS) that suggests that TTIP, currently a trade negotiation between the EU and US, could have a deleterious effect on public health policy in Ireland.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

“The Irish Cancer Society report launched today adds to the work that my colleague Matt Carthy MEP has done on TTIP thus far and convinces me once again that there are very serious problems with this proposed agreement. I ask Minister Varadkar to confirm whether he or his department have performed any assessments of the potential effects of TTIP on health policy in this state?

“In its proposed form, TTIP includes mechanisms that would allow multinational corporations to bypass the legal systems of specific states and to seek compensation for barriers to trade. The authors of the ICS report have made 2 recommendations — that ISDS (Investor-state dispute settlement) be excluded and — that the proposed commercial arbitration body also be excluded. Sinn Féin supports the removal of both of these as they are undemocratic, non-transparent and against the public interest.

“We have seen from experience that the use of such mechanisms has led to multibillion euro settlements against governments. Among the public health issues that could be affected in Ireland are plain packaging of tobacco, bans on use of chemicals in certain products, access to clinical trial data, and even health and safety legislation.

“If the agreement were to be introduced, the Irish government must be ready to look for exclusion of health services from its remit. In the first instance, they must demand that ISDS and the RCB mechanism are excluded. Failing that all health services must be excluded.

“In Ireland, we have already seen the tobacco industry’s efforts to have a public health measure of plain packaging stopped by reference to intellectual property law. The US Chamber of Commerce lodged an objection with the European Commission relating to the Government’s plans to introduce plain packaging citing Intellectual Property rights. The Commission then warned that the impact on Ireland’s economy could be significant as the move may be viewed as an infringement of intellectual property rights.

“States must be allowed to introduce public health measures against harmful products that create a massive cost for our health services. The danger is, if TTIP is introduced in its present form, we would not be able to do so and might even have to compensate companies for putting so-called barriers in their way.

“This action might be a sign of things to come. We cannot forget that Multinational Corporations have profit as their main aim and have little or no concern for the public interest or public health. The Minister needs to ensure Ireland retains sovereignty when it comes to our public health policy.” 

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