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Dinner in Dublin

Apologies for the lack of posts this past week.

I was stunned, to put it mildly, by the election result (which I didn't see coming), and there seemed little point adding to the cacophony of noise.

As it happens I've drafted a post with the title 'Why I'm warming to Theresa May' but it needs a bit of polishing.

In the meantime I'm in Dublin ahead of a dinner Forest is hosting tonight.

We've invited a dozen or so people, including several journalists and what passes for the libertarian community in Ireland, to a roundtable debate on the subject 'Is health the new religion'.

It should be noted that we also sent invitations to various health correspondents and writers specialising in health and with the exception of one, who subsequently pulled out, none of them were interested in attending. Most didn't even bother replying.

No matter, it should still be a good event. I got the idea for the format from the Institute of Ideas who invited me to a similar event at the Cinnamon Club in London when the guest speaker was our old friend Rod Liddle.

It's no coincidence then that tonight's guest speaker is Claire Fox, director of the IoI.

Claire is another old friend of Forest. I first met her 17 years ago when we were invited to a small soiree hosted by the late Auberon Waugh at the Academy Club in Soho.

It sounds impressive but the location was a small Dickensian room up a ricketty flight of stairs.

Waugh, who was the founder and editor of the Literary Review (which had its office next door), thought that a monthly drinks party would be a small gesture of thanks to his contributors, most of whom weren't paid.

He decided that Forest should 'sponsor' these events (ie pay for the drinks) which I was happy to do if it introduced us to the great and the not so good.

Claire Fox was a guest at the first event. So too was Tom Utley, the Daily Mail columnist who was then writing for the Telegraph. Mary Wakefield, now deputy editor of The Spectator, was there and I'm pretty sure (although I may be imagining it) that writer and journalist Tony Parsons was present too.

It was a warm summer evening and the room was thick with tobacco smoke so the best place to sit was next to the open sash windows overlooking Lexington Street.

By comparison the venue for tonight's dinner is distinctly upmarket. Most important, though, our private dining room has direct access to its own smoking terrace.

The event has already caused a minor stir with the Sunday Times Ireland running the following piece in Sunday's edition:

Forest Ireland, the raspy voice of the smoker, is looking for sympathetic journalists to attend a "special roundtable dinner" at L'Ecrivain, Dublin, next week to discuss "Is health the new religion?"

The lobby group, which claims not to represent the tobacco industry but admits getting most of its funding from fag peddlers like JTI and British American Tobacco, wants hacks attending to agree to the Chatham House rule.

Between competitive bouts of coughing, invitees will hear the views of Claire Fox, a committed smoker who runs a libertarian think tank in London, on the "puritannical evangelism" of the public health lobby.

We were puzzled by the proposed timetable, though, with Fox scheduled to speak for ten minutes between the first and main course. Surely all the guests will be outside having a fag before their mains.

They have a point.

More important, all publicity is good publicity. After it appeared I invited the journalist, news editor Colin Coyle, to tonight's dinner and he replied, graciously:

Thanks Simon but I'll have to pass. I shall be playing my weekly five-a-side football game to help keep the grim reaper at bay. But I may well be deluded. Best of luck tonight.

Can't say fairer than that.

PS. Claire will also be discussing 'Is health the new religion?' on Today FM at 2.30 and Newstalk, Ireland's largest independent national radio station, at 5.30. If you can get online at those times, tune in!

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Reader Comments (4)

"It was a warm summer evening and the room was thick with tobacco smoke.."

I take it that the venue did not have ventilation like many other places at that time did.

Such venues without ventilation allowed tobacco control to spread to young 'uns that all pubs clubs, etc were fuggy rooms that provided no escape for those who hate smoking.

That wasn't true as we all know but there were some that did not try and improve the situation, maybe because smokers were the majority of their customers and they didn't mind.

I still think instead of prohibition of smoking indoors, the Govt should have imposed a quality standard of ventilation by law instead of social exclusion, but then what do I know. I'm just a smoker.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017 at 15:36 | Unregistered CommenterPat Nurse

It is sad to see most establishment media ignoring (and in the case of the Sunday Times Ireland) ridiculing Forest. This rejection of free inquiry and free discourse is at the heart of tobacco control's tyranny. All I can say is keep holding the events, we can't let them extinguish freedom even as they seek to extinguish the right to smoke.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017 at 21:46 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

Absolutely, yes, "public health" is one of the secular state religions of the 21st century, and tobacco control is its fundamentalist lunatic fringe.

The hostile, intractable defense of manifestly false claims is not generally a trait of people who are defending the truth.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017 at 2:26 | Unregistered CommenterNate

Well they say there is no such thing as bad publicity, and STI's (tee hee) little piece proves it. It says to smokers they are not alone and there are still people out there who believe in them during this period of prohibition.
One fine day someone in government will decide to return free choice to the people who contribute a large fortune to their coffers.
It's not asking for too much, is it?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017 at 11:04 | Unregistered CommenterStu1

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