Alcohol action plan talks deferred

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From The Irish Times


THE CABINET has deferred discussion on the Government’s action plan on alcohol until September amid disagreement between Fine Gael and Labour over how strong its measures should be.

The issue was originally pencilled in for discussion at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting but was deferred because of divided views among Ministers. Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore is fully supportive of the views of the Minister of State for Health, Róisín Shortall, on this issue, his spokeswoman said last night. Ms Shortall has pressed for strict measures including curbs on advertising and the introduction of a minimum price for alcohol.

However, several Fine Gael Ministers have argued that the measures were disproportionately strict. The matter will now be discussed by the Cabinet sub-committee on social affairs in September.

When asked if he had been lobbied by the drinks industry on the matter a spokesman for Minister for Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar insisted he had not met anyone from the drinks industry since being appointed to Government

“He would certainly confirm that he has been lobbied by sporting organisations regarding any impact a blanket ban would have on sport.”

The organisations included the GAA, the IRFU and the FAI, said the spokesman.

A number of Labour Party backbench TDs, including Colm Keaveney and Aodhán Ó Riordáin, have been highly critical of what they say has been lobbying of Fine Gael TDs and Ministers by the drinks industry.

In a tweet yesterday, Mr Ó Riordáin said that the drinks and construction lobbies “should realise they don’t run the country anymore”. He added: “Cabinet should do right by society.”

Minister of State at the Department of Health Kathleen Lynch of Labour said the Government action plan on alcohol needed to be brought forward as quickly as possible, but accepted it might need “tweaking”.

She was speaking yesterday at the launch of the first report of the Suicide Support and Information System, which shows that more than one-third of people studied who died by suicide had consumed alcohol at the time of death.

The data related to 190 cases of suicide in Cork city and county between 2008 and 2011.