Westlife Promote Cigarettes – Or Is That Bollocks?

Westlife‘s tour of the Philippines is being sponsored by a Philip Morris cigarette brand – or so someone on the Joe Duffy radio show assured us yesterday. Overflowing with outrage, I drew out my trusty keyboard.

Then I paused, and actually checked the story.

Basically, I can find damn all to damn them with. There’s that picture there, of the band and the brand on one billboard, and then there’s… Ehm… There was a comment posted on the Irish Cancer Society‘s Facebook page – quoted here by Broadsheet.ie – but it no longer appears to be there. Maybe they too noticed there was very little to go on.

The tour promoter’s blog has a positively effusive list of sponsors. Some – Fox for example – perhaps not paradigms of ethical behaviour. One, rather bizarrely, a brand of herbal sleeping aid. (Westlife fans need that?) But none of them the brand in question, or any other known cigarette. See footnote for full list.¹

It all hangs on whether that really is a single poster on the Manila billboard, or two posters next to each other. The continuous strip across the bottom seems to unify the two halves, but we can’t be completely sure it’s not a message about how to advertise in this space or something. Futzing in Photoshop doesn’t make it much clearer, and I can’t find any version of the image that’s larger, brighter or less badly compressed. Indeed I can’t find where it came from originally – no one seems to be crediting it. I’d call that suspicious, except I don’t know what to suspect. A campaign of vilification against a boy band just seems too petty.

One thing – The brand in question, Clas Mild, is not made by Philip Morris. It’s a Philippine state-owned brand (rumoured to explode, interestingly). For all I know its appearance on concert posters is mandatory. Not likely, but we really have no idea what’s going on. Some clarification from the band or their management would be nice. I realise I’m effectively asking them to prove their own innocence there, but I expect they’ll be only too eager to distance themselves from an industry so absolutely evil it makes arms manufacture look like a charity for homeless kittens.


  1. “Westlife Live in Manila is brought to you by DAYLY Entertainment in cooperation with the following major sponsors: SMART, FOX, Star World, Sleepasil, Accessorize, Calliope, Mossimo Music, Skin Food and Terranova, and Official Residence-Edsa Shangri-La Hotel. This is also supported by the following media partners, Official TV Network-ABS-CBN, Official Music Channel-MYX, Asap Rocks, Philippine Star, The Manila Bulletin, The Manila Times, Business World, Business Mirror, People’s Journal, Bands, Official Radio Partner-Love Radio 90.7, Magic 89.9, Baranggay LS FM 97.1, Yes FM 101.1, Tambayan 101.9, Energy FM 106.7, Manila Conert Scene, Philippineconcerts.com, Atthewomb.com, OrangeTVMagazine.com, and Digipost. Special thanks to Le Ching Tea House, Astro Plus, Odyssey”

Happy Bertie To You

Croke Park Dublin
Intimate Venue Available For Family Occasions

Talk Show host Joe Duffy just claimed “Nobody is saying Bertie Ahern¹ was corrupt.” Does he not know about the libel laws in this country? A person can pull shit like this and we are still not allowed to say they’re corrupt.

Let’s just put it this way: Nobody is saying his financial affairs were entirely above board either. Among the people who aren’t saying that are the tax office.

It’s hard to say if somebody personally received corrupt payments when that person seems to have no clear concept of a difference between personal, family or party money. But corruption isn’t just kickbacks and envelopes full of cash. Ahern, and the party he led, were closely involved with the property, construction and finance industries in two distinct but intertwined ways: On one hand the party came to associate its political fortunes with the runaway success of these sectors. On the other, a great many of them associated their personal fortunes with that success too. Virtually the whole party – and it must be said, a sizeable portion of the Irish political caste as a whole – were compromised by their involvement. Is compromised the same thing as corrupted?

Not if it won’t get me sued.

Ahern is in the news again now because it’s his 60th birthday this weekend. More specifically, because he’s having his party in the country’s most important stadium, Croke Park. Seriously. His immediate family don’t seem to see any problem with this. Sure it’s an entirely private matter. It’s just that it’s being done in the most public possible way.

I invite them to consider how this will be perceived from abroad. As our country depends for its day-to-day running on funding from the rest of Europe, the man who presided over its financial implosion is being fêted at our national stadium. It’s difficult to explain, isn’t it? Frankly it makes Berlusconi’s Italy look respectable.


  1. For late arrivals, the Taoiseach of Ireland during most of the boom years.