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Seanad Commencement Matter
Reply by Minister of State David Stanton TD on behalf of the Tánaiste and the Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald TD
1st February, 2017
The need for the Minister for Justice to engage directly with the Courts Service and Common Investment Fund (CIF) with a view to divesting their tobacco related stocks and the need for clear guidelines within her department regarding such investments and given that tobacco illness is the leading cause of preventable death in Ireland.
Senator Keith Swanick
On behalf of the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, I wish to thank the Senator for raising this matter and the Tánaiste appreciates Senator’s interest in the subject.
As the Senator will be aware, the Courts Service, in accordance with the Courts Service Act 1998, is responsible for the management and administration of the Courts and the provision of support services for judges. It is in this capacity that the Courts Service has a role in the management and investment of Court funds, which are held in trust by the Courts on behalf of ward of courts, minors and other beneficiaries.
The Accountant of the Courts of Justice has responsibility for the management and investment of funds. The funds managed by the Accountant are funds that are held under the control of the Courts and are managed in a fiduciary capacity on behalf of beneficiaries, who include various categories of litigant, persons who are Wards of Court and Minors who have been awarded damages by the Courts.
The Investment Committee oversees the implementation of investment strategies. It comprises members of the Judiciary, a County Registrar, Court Officers, Court Service Officials and independent external members. The Committee is chaired by the President of the High Court.
These funds are invested in line with the provisions of the Trustee (Authorised Investments) Act, 1958 and subsequent orders. In accordance with the Trustee Act and based on independent investment advice the Courts Service invests a portion of these funds in equities/shares on a passive basis, which means the funds are invested in line with the FTSE All World Developed Index, across a very wide range of diversified funds, in the best interests of the beneficiaries.
As of 30 November 2016, the percentage allocation within the FTSE All Word Developed Index to tobacco stocks was 1.51%. The Senator will appreciate that the fund is operated independently of the Department of Justice and Equality in the best interests of the beneficiaries, and the Department has no role in managing or directing investments. It should be noted that Court funds are not public funds and are not controlled by the Government.
The Department of Justice and Equality understands that Ireland’s Strategic Investment Fund management and the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) Board’s Investment Committee are currently reviewing the Sustainability and Responsible Investment Policy to examine the potential of adding to the list of excluded investment categories so as to consider excluding investment in tobacco companies. This process is expected to be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2017.
In regard to the Common Investment Fund (CIF), the Tánaiste has been informed it holds a small proportion of tobacco related stocks as part of a dividend reinvestment scheme which allows unit holders (charities) the choice of receiving dividend income in cash or to reinvest back into the fund.
The Charities Regulatory Authority has oversight of the CIF which is independently managed and the Tánaiste is informed by the Charities Regulator that they are currently reviewing all legacy matters, including those relating to the CIF and ethical indices will form part of that review process.
It’s also worth noting that in December 2016 the Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan T.D., announced that the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) has completed the sale of its remaining investments in tobacco manufacturing, as part of a wider process of selling its legacy investments over time. All ISIF investments, since its establishment in December 2014, comply with the Fund’s Sustainability and Responsible Investment Policy, which sets out key principles for responsible investment.