Sporting bodies are "very much in the alcohol industry's pocket", an Oireachtas committee was told yesterday.
Prof Joe Barry of Alcohol Action Ireland told the Oireachtas Committee on Transport and Communications that suggestions alcohol sponsorship of sports did not have an effect on alcohol consumption in young people were not true.
He said he read the transcript from a previous committee meeting at which the IRFU, FAI and GAA made the assertion and he was “saddened” to hear it. “Their relationship with these companies is causing a lot of harm to young people.”
Prof Barry said alcohol companies would not spend so much on marketing and advertising if it did not work.
A study, funded by the seventh framework programme of the European Commission and carried out among 6,500 children aged 13 to 15, showed an association between exposure to alcohol sports sponsorship and increased drinking in school children, he said.
Dr Bobby Smyth, a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist with Alcohol Action Ireland, said it was with "typical arrogance" that the alcohol industry, "and those in receipt of its money", had demanded evidence be provided that proved sponsorship promotes consumption.
“If they have proof that alcohol sponsorship does nothing to increase alcohol related harm, than Alcohol Action Ireland would have no issue with this activity,” Dr Smyth said.
The average consumption in Ireland for adult drinkers was the equivalent of one bottle of whiskey for each man and woman, per week, and the average age to begin drinking was 15 .
“There are 60,000 children who are going to start drinking this year,” Dr Smyth said.
Dr William Flannery, from the faculty of addiction psychiatry at the College of Psychiatry of Ireland, said suicide was the leading cause of death among 15-24 year-olds in Ireland. A 2010 study showed that in 24 per cent of all cases of self harm, alcohol was involved.