Shortall claims ‘spurious reasons’ being used to delay alcohol Bill

Varadkar hopes legislation, pulled from Dáil schedule on Tuesday, will be dealt with this week

The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill includes measures on segregating alcohol sales in shops and placing health warnings on labels. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill includes measures on segregating alcohol sales in shops and placing health warnings on labels. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times.

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has assured the Dáil that the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill will be dealt with this week, if it is possible.

TDs were informed on Tuesday morning that the controversial legislation, which includes measures on segregating alcohol sales in shops and placing health warnings on labels, had been withdrawn to allow for consideration of new amendments.

Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall expressed concern about the delay when final stages of the Bill were scheduled to be dealt with on Wednesday evening.

“This Bill has been under discussion for 1,000 days and that’s 6½ years since the first recommendations came, on this legislation.”

She said there were a “huge amount of spurious reasons for delaying the Bill, and a whole lot of tactics being used by various members here and in the Seanad as a result of the huge lobby being put on by the industry”.

“There are 14 members of this House who are continuing to engage in these delaying tactics and have all kinds of spurious amendments down,” she said.

Ms Shortall appealed to the Fine Gael, labour and Fianna Fáil leaders to “stop the game playing on this Bill”.

But Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaíl said “members are entitled to table whatever amendments they want” and that “we should be very careful about imputing ill intent to anyone who tables an amendment”.

Warnings

TDs have introduced a number of amendments including calls to have health warnings on labels listed in Irish as well as English to pre-empt a High Court challenge similar to the successful case calling for warnings in Irish on tobacco products.

A number of TDs also called for the removal of the requirement to have warnings linking alcohol to fatal cancers on all alcohol products and in advertising and posters. TDs also proposed exempting airport duty free shops from the health warning labels.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the delay was nothing to do with the Opposition. “We want the Bill to go ahead, it’s being going on too long.”

His health spokesman Stephen Donnelly said they had been informed on Tuesday morning that the Bill had been pulled from the schedule and he expressed concern that this had happened several times in the Seanad.

Senators had been told that the delay was just an administrative issue and it would be back within a week “but it disappears for 12 months”.

He said “this Bill will hopefully save a lot of lives” and asked for assurances that it would be back at the latest by next week.

Sinn Féin health spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly said “this Bill has been subject to absolutely disgraceful delay and the people who are doing it know exactly who you are and we know exactly who is pushing this agenda”.

Government Chief Whip Joe McHugh said he believed the Bill would be back before the Dáil next week after new amendments were considered.

“There is no delay,” he said.

Mr Varadkar told the House that “as head of the Government and the minister who published the Bill I want to get it passed. If there is a way to get it back on this week we will do so.”