Alcohol Action Ireland today welcomed the passage of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, 2015, through Seanad Éireann. This marks a significant milestone for the proposed legislation especially at a time when alcohol consumption in Ireland continues to rise and alcohol harms have never been more pronounced.
Commenting on the final set of concessions conceded by Minister Harris to the business representative group, the RRAI and other retail organisations, Eunan McKinney, Head of Communications and Advocacy at Alcohol Action Ireland said:
“While we understand the difficulty in reaching political unanimity, especially as both benches have been subjected to an endless barrage of industry lobbying, it is nonetheless regrettable that a clear and decisive stop could not be brought to the intrusive visibility of retailing alcohol in our supermarkets, convenience stores and small shops.
The notion that public health advocates were only seeking to protect young children is incomplete; our endeavour has been to protect all children, and to support an adult cohort who, faced with the challenges of a healthier lifestyle or recovery, encounter the daily tsunami of alcohol promotion and visibility.”
Reflecting on measures finally agreed and passed by Seanad Éireann, he said:
“These new, statutory based, measures can significantly alter the current retailing landscape. Most importantly, its enactment will finally put an end to the ten-year mirage of a self-regulatory, voluntary code of practice that has made alcohol so ubiquitous in our stores.
The central principles of the Bill remained intact, and in some areas, strengthened; what goes now to Dáil Éireann is the most progressive piece of public health legislation advanced by any government in recent times. In this regard, Minister Simon Harris and An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, are to be commended.
The historical significance of this cannot be lost and it is incumbent on all Deputies in Dáil Éireann to now give this legislation a safe and speedy passage early in 2018, before we face another year of lost lives, and utterly avoidable harms.”
The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill’s principal objective is to induce an annual reduction in the level of Ireland’s alcohol consumption (11.46 litre per capita currently to an OECD average consumption of 9.1 litre, over the coming seven years). This will only be achieved by implementing the measures proposed within the Bill cohesively.
The intense lobbying being undertaken by the alcohol industry aims to preserve an estimated €3.4 billion off-trade market. 45% of full Off Licences are held by large multiples (supermarkets), while 55% are held by convenience stores and small shops (predominantly branded franchisee operators).
The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill was introduced to Seanad Éireann on 10 December 2015, 735 days ago. In that time, 2,205 lives have been lost to alcohol related illness, trauma and harm.