Irish government to be taken to court by Donegal store owner and Philip Morris

A Donegal storeowner and cigarette company Philip Morris are filing suit against the Irish government at the High Court on Tuesday against the administration's ban on cigarette displays in stores.

In July, the Irish government brought in legislation that made it illegal to display anything about tobacco products in stores.

This decision did not sit well with Maurice Timony, who owns a newsagent (convenience store) in Donegal.

In an interview with The Guardian newspaper, Timony argues that if the Irish government is willing to allow him to sell cigarettes, then it should also allow him to display his wares.

"The country is swamped in legislation that is making life very difficult for compliant retailers like me. The ban on the display of cigarettes is just one example of a piece of over-regulation that has negatively affected my business," said Timony.

"As a law-abiding retailer, I have a responsibility to my employees to make sure that I can continue to employ them going forward. Simply put, enough is enough."

Timony and Philip Morris will file suit at the High Court in Ireland Tuesday and the tobacco company will cover the legal costs of the case.

Anne Edwards, a spokesperson for Philip Morris, released the following statement on the issue.

"We know from our experience in Iceland that a total ban on tobacco display does not work, is costly to implement and ineffective at reducing smoking levels.

"Ireland already has one of the worst illegal cigarette problems in the EU and this ban is making it worse. No one likes to litigate, but we have unfortunately arrived at a point where we see no alternative. By taking this action, we ask the Irish government, what type of industry do you want? One that is legitimate and supports effective regulation or one that is run by criminal gangs selling cheap, illegal cigarettes on street corners?"

Timony and Philip Morris do not intend to seek any changes to the existing laws banning smoking in public places, but will likely argue that the legislation on banning cigarette displays in stores prevents the retailer from providing proper trade and services and violates EU and Irish laws.

Lawyer Eoin McCullough will represent the plaintiffs in court.

Philip Morris is the largest cigarette company in the world and owns a ten percent share of the Irish market from sales of Marlboro cigarettes.

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