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Legislation to protect employees long overdue - Ó Caoláin

8 March, 2006


Sinn Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has said, "The enactment of legislation to protect employees and others who blow the whistle on illegal or other unacceptable practices is long overdue." Speaking in the Dáil this evening Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "In other states whistle blowers have played a vital role in ensuring the public interest is upheld."

He said, "There are many cases where information which is in the public interest is not revealed because individual workers justifiably fear penalization by their employer in the absence of measures to protect them if they make such disclosures. Those workers who come forward despite the lack of protection must be commended.

"The enactment of legislation to protect employees and others who blow the whistle on illegal or other unacceptable practices is long overdue. We have seen enough cases where the absence of such legislation allowed illegal and unacceptable practices to continue unchecked -- corruption and overcharging in the banking sector and the activities of Dr Neary and others at our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda are only the most notorious examples.

"In other states whistle blowers have played a vital role in ensuring the public interest is upheld -- I am thinking for example of the cases of whistle blowers in the tobacco industry such as Jeffrey Wigand, the tobacco executive who revealed that his former employer knew exactly how addictive and lethal cigarettes were. His revelations eventually led to the tobacco industry's $246 billion litigation settlement.

"Whistle blower protection legislation is a key tool in the protection of public health and safety and in the protection of the environment. Its importance is magnified by the fact that at present we have an under resourced health and safety authority. The example of the whistle blower in the tobacco industry is important. In the future I believe that the enactment of such legislation would ensure that employees of companies in the food and drug sectors come forward where they have evidence that there is a threat to public health. There is no doubt that in the case of the tobacco industry those in charge made a deliberate calculation not to face the financial implications of properly informing the public on the dangers of tobacco. Who is to say that this is not being repeated in the pharmaceutical sector at present, or indeed in the processed food sector where there is increased evidence that additives being used pose a danger to human health? We must facilitate workers in these and other sectors, including the public sector, to come forward where they have information which is in the public interest." ENDS

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