Dealing with drink

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Letters to The Irish Times on Monday, August 12

Sir, – Your Editorial (“Dealing with drink”, August 2nd) makes for depressing reading for the many people in Ireland who are hoping for Government action aimed at tackling alcohol misuse – one of the most serious social problems facing the country at this time. As you correctly pointed out, the core issue relates to the fact that the drinks industry in Ireland continues to target the young and impressionable by linking sport and physical prowess with alcohol consumption. You also note it is five years since a government task force recommended, among other measures, a ban on outdoor advertising and a phasing out of sports sponsorship by the drinks industry; but it will be at least 2020 before the process of phasing out sports sponsorship is completed.

It beggars belief that the drinks industry is still allowed to stymie an action that would help to protect the most vulnerable citizens. In contrast to other nations that have taken measures to protect their populations by curtailing the promotion of alcohol, successive Irish governments have shied away from taking action on an issue that is of central importance to the lives of its citizens.

The World Health Organisation recently pointed to the fact that the OECD countries that impose a ban on alcohol advertising have significantly lower alcohol consumption and lower numbers of traffic fatalities than countries that do not impose advertising restrictions. Yet, in a year in which drink-related traffic accidents among young people are on the increase, our Government continues to bow to the dictates of a very powerful industry.

Between now and 2020, how many more young people will die as a result of traffic accidents and how many will be disabled for life; how many will be killed or injured as a result of drink-related violence; how many children will be scarred psychologically by drink-related domestic violence? For a Government that prides itself on “grasping nettles”, it might be time to ponder on these questions. – Yours, etc,



Co Mayo.

Sir, – In your Editorial “Dealing with drink” (August 2nd), the lack of action in addressing “Ireland’s drink problem” is considered.

Contrast this with the situation in the UK where a new alcohol strategy has recently been finalised by the UK government. As is the case in this country, the UK government wants to address alcohol misuse. The UK proposals followed a detailed consultation process and were agreed and supported by all government departments, including health, as representing an evidence-based and proportionate approach on the measures that will be most effective in tackling misuse.

The key measures in its new strategy include the decision to strengthen the co-regulatory and mandatory codes of practice around the sale, availability and promotion of alcohol. It has been decided not to pursue minimum pricing but to instead proceed with a ban on below-cost selling, at a level of duty plus VAT.

The UK government concluded it had listened to the evidence and arguments put forward in response to the consultation, stating its belief that the government response is “proportionate without penalising responsible drinkers”.

Meeting the requirements laid out in the strategy will present the industry in the UK with significant challenges, but it has committed to working with the British government on the collaborative and co-regulatory agenda it set out last week.

The British government did not consider the introduction of bans on sponsorship and certain advertising, as urged by some groups, on the basis of a complete lack of evidence as to their effectiveness.

The drinks industry in Ireland is committed to working with all stakeholders to reduce misuse, and we have shown this through our multi-million euro investment in awareness programmes, our adherence and support of some of the strictest marketing codes and practices in the world, and our new proposals on a further strengthening and tightening of that regulatory environment.

We have sought to engage with legislators to agree a strong collaborative approach where all codes are placed on a statutory footing. Unfortunately, many of the current proposals are ill-advised, not evidence-based and will lead to the potential loss of thousands of jobs and the decline of one of Ireland’s most important indigenous export industries. Most crucially, many of the current proposals will not effectively address the core issue of alcohol misuse.

We should look to our nearest neighbour to see how an inclusive strategy to address the misuse of alcohol can have a meaningful impact. – Yours, etc,



Alcohol Beverage

Federation of Ireland,

Baggot Street, Dublin 2.

Sir, – President Obama comes to Ireland. He’s taken to a pub where he drinks a pint. Pictures are beamed all over the world. Queen Elizabeth comes to Ireland. She’s taken to the visitors’ centre of a brewery. She’s offered a pint, at which she smiles politely. More pictures are beamed all over the world. Mrs Obama and her daughters come to Ireland. They’re given lunch in a pub. Still more pictures are beamed all over the world. The Dáil sits late to vote on one of the most important pieces of legislation to come before it in recent times. The Dáil bar stays open to keep our legislators lubricated. The troika comes to town to make sure there’s no let-up in austerity and are entertained in a pub – where else?

Now it appears that the powers-that-be want to ban sponsorship of sport by drinks companies. Am I missing something here? – Yours, etc,



Co Kildare.