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Tánaiste challenged on refusal to sue US drug companies

27 July, 2006

Sinn Féin Dáil leader and spokesperson on Health and Children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has challenged the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children Mary Harney to set out what strategy she now proposes to pursue the US drug companies responsible for supplying contaminated blood and blood products to Ireland resulting in the infection of Irish haemophiliacs with HIV and Hepatitis C.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said the Tánaiste’s announcement that the Irish Government would not be taking legal action against these companies was “another let-down for people who have suffered appallingly through commercial negligence and greed and through State neglect”.

He stated, “It has taken five years and a quarter of a million euros worth of ‘legal advice’ for the Government to come up with the decision not to pursue legal action. In November 2001 former Health Minister Mícheál Martin appointed a senior counsel who travelled to the United States and met many key players in this issue. A year later Minister Martin said it would be possible to mount a useful investigation which would allow access to publicly available material and to persons and bodies willing to co-operate. Why has it taken nearly four more years to reach a decision?

“The Tánaiste should publish both the legal advice given to her by the Attorney-General and a full account of the inquiries made by all legal advisors appointed by the State. She should now state what strategy she will pursue to hold these companies to account. This could include co-operating with other governments whose people were infected by these poisoned products.

“The Tánaiste’s decision not to challenge the drug companies in the courts is yet another let-down for people who have suffered appallingly through commercial negligence and greed and through Irish State neglect. The matter should not simply be shelved now. The giant pharmaceutical companies continue to make massive profits while failing to take any responsibility for their actions or to pay one cent compensation to their many victims.” ENDS

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