Press release: AAI calls for local and European election candidates to show their public-health credentials

Alcohol Action Ireland media release

31 May 2024

For immediate release:

Election hopefuls urged to commit to evidence-based policies when in office and shun engagement with alcohol industry

Alcohol Action Ireland (AAI) today launched it Election Candidates’ Pledge, calling on all hopefuls in the upcoming local and European elections to put public health before private wealth and commit to progressive evidence-based policies when it comes to alcohol and the alcohol industry.

Alcohol is no ordinary commodity. It is intoxicating, psychoactive, carcinogenic, mood-altering and dependence-producing and it is responsible for a wide range of harms.  Despite this, the industry wields a high level of influence among policy makers both nationally and across the continent, which results in the continuing muddying of the waters regarding the health risks associated with their product and which stymies progressive policies designed to maximise public health.

In its Candidates Pledge, AAI calls on election hopefuls to:

  • recognise that alcohol is Ireland’s biggest drug problem and resources are needed to tackle this issue
  • commit to progressive health-led policies for those living with alcohol/substance use problems
  • put public health before vested interests and private wealth by not engaging with the alcohol industry

AAI CEO Dr Sheila Gilheany said: “The importance of having MEPs in Brussels who represent public interest before vested interests cannot be overstated. The World Health Organisation estimate that around 800 people die in Europe every day from alcohol-attributable causes and one in four deaths among young adults is caused by alcohol use, yet the industry seems to have unfettered access to policy makers to continue denying the evidence regarding the harms their products cause and to stymie progressive health-led policies which could save thousands of lives every year – it is literally a fatal combination.”

On a local level, alcohol has a huge impact on services such as hospitals and gardai and places a huge burden on public finances. 11% of the healthcare budget is being used for alcohol-related illnesses and injuries, with 1,500 hospital beds in use every day in relation to alcohol. The OECD estimates that the cost associated with harms from alcohol in Ireland equate to approximately €9.6bn-€12bn annually.

Dr Gilheany continued: “The alcohol industry looks to insert itself into public policy debate on every level of government, where it can indulge in both ‘greenwashing’ and ‘health washing’, putting their own shareholders’ profit above the health and wellbeing of ordinary people. What’s required from each and every person on the ballot paper on June 7 is a commitment to not listen to industry spin and to see alcohol for what it really is – an addictive, dangerous drug that is mass produced and is responsible for misery on an industrial scale. We call on all candidates to show their credentials when it comes to putting public health before private wealth so that the public has an informed choice about who exactly they’re voting for.”