Alcohol lobby fights back

Is Leo Varadkar in thrall to the drinks industry or simply unprepared to confront vested interests

 

Is Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in thrall to the drinks industry or is he simply not prepared to confront vested interests? Varadkar has signalled that debate on the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill will be deferred until the autumn while his offer of a free vote on the Fixed Penalty-Drink Driving Bill may represent the kiss of death for Shane Ross’s legislation. Former Fine Gael minister Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, who had charge of the Public Health Bill before being replaced, thinks the alcohol lobby is winning.

Accusing the drinks industry of using the same tactics as “big tobacco” in resisting health-related measures, Corcoran Kennedy believes efforts are now being made to unpick the provisions of the Public Health Bill. This is the first time alcohol has been treated as a public health issue in this State. But the legislation now proposed is a pale shadow of what was intended. Originally, Róisín Shortall had recommended a ban on sports sponsorship; limits on advertising; point-of-sales display controls and minimum pricing. Three years later, following intensive lobbying, the ban on sports advertising was dropped in a Bill introduced by Varadkar as minister for health.

The next phase of the battle centred on a requirement that alcohol products be physically separated from household goods in retail outlets. Under pressure from small businesses in particular, Fine Gael Senators blocked the legislation last October. It has remained in limbo in spite of a Government offer to appease both sides. There is also uncertainty about a North/South plan to co-ordinate the introduction of minimum pricing.

The campaign against the legislation has been comprehensive, linking lost media advertising revenues, to reductions in support for artistic events and predicted damage to jobs and exports. Not a mention of public health and the 1,500 hospital beds that are occupied each night by patients with alcohol-related illnesses. Much is made of a 20 per cent drop in consumption since the Celtic Tiger years, but Ireland still ranks eighth in the world for alcohol intake. We have a serious problem. Lets do something about it.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.