From Socialist Voice, August 2006

Harney gives in to big business

The decision of the Tánaiste and Minister for Health, Mary Harney, not to pursue legal proceedings against American drug companies for the role they played in the infection of Irish haemophiliacs with HIV and hepatitis C will come as no surprise to anyone who understands the ideology of this minister and her political party, the Progressive Democrats.
    The minister has announced her decision not to either hold an inquiry or pursue legal action against the drug companies. She based her decision on legal advice that any case would be unsuccessful and a waste of taxpayers’ money.
    This is priceless, coming from a Government that has given away tens of millions to the legal profession in a series of tribunals that are going nowhere and will never get anyone into jail. She also claimed that an inquiry would not produce anything new in addition to what is already known. This is despite the fact that a leading law firm in New York offered to take a case against the drug companies on a “no foal no fee” basis. In other words, it would have cost the Irish state nothing.
    More than 260 haemophiliacs in Ireland contracted HIV or hepatitis C from contaminated blood-clotting products, most of which were imported from American drug companies. Ninety-one of these people have since died.
    The Government’s decision not to pursue a case has more to do with not upsetting the US government and the drug corporations. Many of these same companies have manufacturing or research facilities here in Ireland. And other global corporations don’t take too kindly to governments interfering in their activities.
    It was one of the planks of the “Multilateral Agreement on Investment” about ten years ago that governments should not be allowed to take cases against transnational corporations. The Irish Government was an active participant in the secret talks in Paris that drew up that agreement. Though it was never adopted publicly, its contents and strategic thrust have shaped trade talks and agreements ever since.
    It is clear that people’s rights and their health are of far less importance than keeping transnational corporations happy and sweet. Most importantly, don’t upset the US corporate government!

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