Sean Sherlock ‘took a figary’ over alcohol cancer label warnings
Legislation to be voted on at committee as TD apologises to party colleagues
Minister for Health Simon Harris has insisted he is committed to the inclusion of health warnings about cancer and alcohol on labels and in advertising
Labour TD Sean Sherlock has apologised to his parliamentary party over his unannounced amendments to legislation on alcohol to delete cancer warnings on drink products, even though they had been championed by his party colleague.
Mr Sherlock “took a figary” but expressed regret to the parliamentary party for his handling of the issue, a senior party source said.
He had submitted amendments to the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, directly contradicting efforts by his party colleague Senator Ged Nash, who sponsored amendments that labels should carry warnings of evidence-based links between alcohol and fatal cancers.
These and other amendments will be debated and voted on at committee stage on Wednesday.
Mr Sherlock, whose Cork East constituency is home to a number of distilleries and breweries, had not spoken to Mr Nash before submitting his amendments to the Bill.
He had not raised the issue previously at parliamentary party meetings but did so at the meeting on Tuesday.
He has, however, publicly defended his amendments and said that while he was not against health labelling as such, “I think the health implications in other areas like suicide, heart disease and pregnancy, should also be considered”.
Mr Sherlock said an initial proposal, that health warnings linking alcohol to fatal cancers should take up a minimum of one-third on the label on cans and bottles of alcohol, was excessive.
“This would involve huge expense for small companies involved in the alcohol industry,” he said.
The amendment mirrors a similar provision by Minister for Health Simon Harris who has rowed back on the amendment championed by Mr Nash and Independent Senator Frances Black.
Mr Harris’s is to satisfy a European Commission ruling which states that the obligation for health warnings to take up at least one third of labels on alcohol products is disproportionate and went beyond what was required to meet the Government’s health objective.
Mr Harris has insisted, however, he is committed to the inclusion of health warnings about cancer and alcohol on labels and in advertising.
Mr Sherlock introduced amendments to end a requirement that all alcohol advertising including billboards and on TV must display cancer warnings and that pubs must display notices showing the links between alcohol and cancer.
Cancer warnings are already carried on Irish alcohol for sale in Israel, the US and other non-EU countries.
Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Sinn Féin are expected to support the cancer warnings. Sinn Féin health spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly said that if Mr Sherlock’s amendments were not withdrawn her party would vote against them.
She said the fact that alcohol was linked to other issues such as suicide and heart disease, was not a reason not to have cancer warnings on labels. “It is public health legislation for a reason,” Ms O’Reilly said.