Proposal to delay end to alcohol sponsorship


ALCOHOL SPONSORSHIP of sporting events would not end until 2020 under new plans being considered by Government. Some Ministers believe a phasing-out period of eight years is too long.

An action plan on alcohol has not come to Cabinet yet but was discussed on Monday by the Cabinet subcommittee on social policy.

When a Government-appointed group reported in February recommending a phasing-out period concluding as soon as 2016, objections were raised by Ministers Pat Rabbitte, Leo Varadkar, Simon Coveney and Jimmy Deenihan.

However, Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald has made clear she thinks a newly proposed deadline of 2020 is too far off when she told The Irish Times she wanted the planned legislation to impact on young people. “What I would want to see is timeframes that make a difference to young people now and in the near future. I’m very keen that we take meaningful actions in relation to the range of recommendations. They have to be meaningful and the timeframes have to be meaningful.”

Ms Fitzgerald said she was keen for a strategy to be brought before Cabinet as soon as possible. She had confidence new Minister of State for Health Alex White would examine work done to date.

Mr White promised action on the strategy in his first address to the Dáil as a Minister this week, when he said 1.5 million Irish drinkers consumed alcohol in a harmful pattern.

His predecessor, Róisín Shortall, had championed radical measures to address abuse. Two days before she resigned she confirmed the original 2016 deadline had been “relaxed somewhat” following talks with other Ministers.

Ms Shortall said she was cognisant of the fact a number of sporting organisations had significant debts so she hoped to see a move towards a ban in a “reasonable” period of time.

She also said she thought there was general agreement at political level that it was “not desirable to have the alcohol industry so intertwined in so many different aspects of Irish life”. This was particularly the case in the area of sport: “We don’t want mixed messages going out to young people in particular.”

Ms Shortall said she did not have a problem with the alcohol industry sponsoring sport or other cultural activities. “It’s the advertising and promotion that goes along with it.”

Representatives of the drinks industry dissociated themselves from the report delivered to Government in February. Mature Enjoyment of Alcohol in Society (Meas), an industry-sponsored initiative encouraging responsible consumption of drink, described the 2016 deadline as misguided and unrealistic.

Chairman of the Oireachtas health committee Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer said sponsorship was a complex issue.

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