Concern over “powerful vested interests” trying to stand in the way of the Government’s efforts to tackle alcohol-related harm

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A Labour TD has expressed his concern in the Dáil over “powerful vested interests” trying to stand in the way of the Government’s efforts to tackle alcohol-related harm.

Deputy Robert Dowds said on Tuesday that “in recent times we have seen a number of cases where powerful vested interests have tried to stand in the way of us tackling the problems related to our national drug of choice, namely, alcohol”.

He asked Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney, in light of these attempts, where the legislation on the Sale of Alcohol Bill and Public Health (Alcohol) Bill currently stands.

“I share the Deputy’s concern,” said Minister Coveney. “I am told that proposals are being worked on by both the Departments of Justice and Equality and Health at the moment because both Departments are involved and that we should have proposals before the end of the year on both of those pieces of legislation.”

Meanwhile, yesterday (Thursday), Deputy James Bannon also raised the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill in Leinster House: “The harm associated with alcohol misuse and the effects on society are very well documented, with consequences including suicide, physical assault, self-harm and even murder in some cases. As we know from media outlets, there has been a significant increase in the number of places selling cheap alcohol or engaging in below-cost selling,” said the Fine Gael TD, who wanted to know when the bill would come before the House.

The question was dealt with by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore. “The Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Alex White, has been working on the issue and has developed some proposals which will be considered by the Government. Arising from that discussion, the public health (alcohol) Bill will be progressed. I do not have a date for it yet but it is being dealt with as an immediate issue,” he said.

In the Seanad yesterday, a number of members, including Paschal Mooney and Catherine Noone, called for a debate on alcohol-related issues, including alcohol sponsorship of sports, saying that Minister White and Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar should attend.

Senator Maurice Cummins said that “as soon as the alcohol strategy is decided, the Minister of State, Deputy Alex White, has agreed to come to the House for a debate”.