Tackling childhood obesity

Sir, – Further to Una Mullally's article ("Getting hot under the collar about ice cream vans", Opinion & Analysis, June 16th) regarding my recent comments in the Seanad, I feel the need to set the record straight. Obesity is an issue about which I feel very strongly, not just because of the devastating impact it is having on our society, but also because I have struggled with serious weight issues of my own in the past, which thankfully feels like a lifetime ago now.

I brought up the issue of ice cream vans in the Seanad because when a parent from Wexford raised the topic with me, it struck a chord. The omnipresent chime of the ice cream van at this time of year is just one very small example of the pressures facing parents who are trying to keep their children away from sugar-laden treats. Obesity is not a trivial matter and it is certainly not something I would ever attempt to make light of.

I know all too well that it can’t be solved by regulating ice cream vans; that we need more education; that parents must say no; that children need to be more active; and most of all that a so-called nanny state is not in any way progressive.

I have a track record on raising the issue; a fact which can be backed up by a quick scan through my contributions to the Seanad. While I consistently speak about the challenges associated with tackling obesity, the media only sit up and take notice when something which could be construed as trivial, such as ice cream vans, is mentioned. I would welcome more regular coverage of both what I have to say about obesity and indeed about what is said by my colleagues in the Seanad generally, but I will concede that this is rather unlikely.


Despite taking some flak over the last week, I will continue to talk about obesity and to suggest ideas – be they big or small – on how we can go about reducing it. – Yours, etc,



Leinster House,

Kildare Street,

Dublin 2.