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Sending the ‘right message’: Arthur Cox sees donations rejected by Irish Cancer Society due to client

A leading charity has decided it will no longer accept corporate donations from Big Five Irish law firm Arthur Cox as the firm is currently acting for tobacco giant Japan Tobacco in a dispute against the Irish government.

Arthur Cox is at present representing Japan Tobacco Ireland in a legal action against pending legislation for the plain packaging of cigarettes. The Irish Cancer Society said it is ‘currently undertaking a review of professional service providers who may have a conflict with the Society’s mission, which is to achieve a future without cancer’ and that ‘because Arthur Cox are now leading a legal action, which has the clear aim of preventing the enactment of this legislation, we will therefore now decline any offer of a corporate donation from Arthur Cox.’

A spokesperson added: ‘Where the current work of a professional service provider has the clear aim of preventing the enactment of legislation which we consider crucial to the prevention of cancer, we would now decline any offer of a corporate donation.’

The charity said it received €20,000 in both 2013 and 2014 from the firm, which also serves as a legal adviser to the government’s Health Service Executive. Minister for Children James Reilly recently told Ireland’s national press that he has a ‘problem’ with Arthur Cox continuing to provide legal advice to the State agency whilst representing tobacco firms. ‘

‘I am very concerned about a perceived or real conflict of interest here of legal firms representing both sides in a hugely high stakes situation like this…I fail to see how we send the right message by employing legal firms that are prepared to represent the tobacco industry.’

With the Bill currently being piloted through the Oireachtas, the Irish parliament, Ireland will constitute the first member state of the European Union to bring in plain packaging on cigarettes. A second cigarette manufacturer, Imperial Tobacco Group, last week threatened legal action too against the government if Ireland proceeded with the legalisation.

Arthur Cox did not respond to requests for comment.