The Government has urged its European counterparts to ban alcohol advertising, telling a seminar in Brussels that children must be protected from an industry whose "primary interest is growing its markets and maximising profits".
In a criticism of the alcohol industry, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, Minister of State at the Department of Health, said alcohol was a "prominent factor in cases of crime, suicide, and mental illness".
She argued that the most effective response to alcohol marketing would be “a comprehensive ban on alcohol advertising, promotion and sponsorship”.
She told attendees, including EU commissioner for health and food Vytenis Andriukaitis, that the industry "should have no role in formatting public health policy in relation to alcohol".
During the seminar – organised by NGOs Eurocare and Alcohol Action Ireland – Ms Corcoran Kennedy, directly addressed Estonian government representative Maria Jesse, pledging Ireland's support for the incoming Estonian presidency's moves to curb alcohol abuse.
She said Ireland had a particularly "devastating" relationship with alcohol and that "no other product that can cause such harm is as promoted and advertised in the world".
"Neither can we allow the alcohol industry to write the law that governs alcohol marketing and advertising in Europe, " she said.
“We all know they have their own interests to protect – they are an industry whose success depends on high levels of alcohol consumption, boosted by marketing and advertising.”
Ms Corcoran Kennedy has previously defended measures in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill currently before the Oireachtas. The measures include minimum pricing for alcohol and a requirement that curtains be placed over alcohol displays in shops to prevent young people being influenced by it. She said young people should have no relationship with alcohol.
She told the seminar the Bill was the first time that alcohol was being addressed as a public health issue in Ireland and that the legislation would address all the principles, policies and interventions recommended in the World Health Organisation’s global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol.
Last week EU culture ministers agreed to review an EU directive that covers the audiovisual promotion and advertising of alcohol.
The decision paves the way for negotiations between the council, the commission and the parliament on future controls of alcohol and food advertising as well as advertising to children and self-regulation.