Drinks group tipped off about Cabinet memo

A DRINKS industry-funded group was tipped off by a Department of Health official that its views were not included in a confidential government anti-alcohol abuse memo.

From the Irish Independent

It meant that it was able to lobby another minister on the matter before the memo was submitted to the Cabinet.

The Mature Enjoyment of Alcohol in Society (MEAS) group had been involved in a steering group dealing with the problem of excessive drinking.

But MEAS could not agree with the recommendations in the group’s final report and decided to release its own “minority report”.

Its chief executive, Fionnuala Sheehan, confirmed to the Irish Independent that she was told by a Department of Health official that this dissenting minority report had not been included in the anti-alcohol abuse memo.

She declined to name the official, who she met during an alcohol conference in 2012.

According to the rules laid down in the cabinet handbook, memos and documents relating to government meetings are “strictly confidential”.

Ms Sheehan sent a letter to Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Minister Jimmy Deenihan. In her letter, she said she was extremely concerned that MEAS’s minority report “has not been included in the memo circulated to government departments for observations”.

The Irish Independent asked the Department of Health if it was going to investigate the incident — and whether the MEAS report had been included in the memo as a result of the group’s lobbying.

The department did not respond directly to these questions.