Minister for Health urged to resist drinks industry lobbying

Frances Black to hold a public meeting in Cork on Public Health (Alcohol) Bill

The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill which was introduced by Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, when he was minister for health.

The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill which was introduced by Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, when he was minister for health.

 

The Minister for Health has been urged to resist attempts by the drinks industry to introduce amendments to forthcoming bill on the sale and marketing of alcohol in Ireland.

Independent Senator Frances Black, who chaired the cross party group on the harm caused by alcohol, said she was extremely concerned that Simon Harris might buckle under pressure from some in his own party who have been lobbied by the drinks industry on the proposed changes.

Just last week, a number of Fine Gael senators expressed concern about aspects of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill which was introduced by Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, when he was minister for health. The bill aims to reduce alcohol consumption in Ireland by 2020.

But Ms Black said there was a lot of scaremongering surrounding the bill which seeks to address four separate issues – labelling, minimum unit pricing, product separation and marketing and sports sponsorship with opponents of the bill focusing at the moment on product separation.

“Product separation is the big focus of opposition at the moment and there has been a lot of scaremongering, telling small shopkeepers that it is going to cost them much more because they are going to have to build separate structures and have separate tills but that’s not true.

“The reality is that it will require shopkeepers to put up shelves with a door so that when somebody walking into their local shop with their granddaughter, they don’t have to look at a wall of alcohol beside the nappies or the milk or the bread.

“It should not be a big deal - it is just a small step towards changing our relationship with alcohol because everyone in this country knows someone with an alcohol problem and a report three years ago found three people a day die from alcohol related issues so if it can save one life, it will be worth it.”

Ms Black founded the RISE Foundation which works with the families of those with addictive behaviour. She was speaking in advance of a visit to Cork where she is due to meet a number of groups and NGOs working with those with addiction issues in advance of a public meeting on the new bill.

“I’m inviting both public representatives - councillors, senators and TDs - and the general public because there’s a lot of scaremongering going on and I want people to have clarity so they know exactly what this bill is about and it needs to be passed 100 per cent in its entirety without amendments,” she said.

Senator Black’s public meeting takes place the Rochestown Park Hotel in Cork at 7.30pm on September 10th.