Press release: AAI calls on Taoiseach Simon Harris to continue backing evidence-based public health measures in alcohol policy

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Ireland is drinking 10% less than it did prior to the implementation of world-leading laws to help curb alcohol harm, new figures have revealed. 

Alcohol consumption figures from Revenue receipts show that Ireland is drinking 9.9 litres per capita, a drop of 10% since the passage of the Public Health Alcohol Act (PHAA) in 2018. 

This is still a high level and looking at alcohol consumption per drinker, using data from the 2023 Healthy Ireland survey, the figures are concerning. Last year, each drinker on average consumed: 

 284 cans of beer + 12 bottles of spirits + 43 bottles of wine + 35 cans of cider 

If all drinkers consumed at or below the current HSE lower risk drinking guidelines, including zero alcohol for children, consumption would be at least 38% lower. 

AAI CEO Dr Sheila Gilheany said:  

“The PHAA contains a suite of measures to curb alcohol harm including minimum unit pricing – and they are starting to show results. However, just because we are seeing a drop in alcohol consumption from a very high level, that does not mean we can take our foot off the pedal. It is deeply worrying that this progress is being used as an opportunity by the alcohol industry to push for less regulation of its products – and audaciously ask the department of health to work in partnership with it in developing health policy. This cannot be allowed to happen and a clear message should be sent by government to harmful commodity industries – who all use the same corporate playbook to oppose any progressive health policy – that there is no room for them in policy making.” 

Separately, AAI welcomed the appointment of Taoiseach Simon Harris, who has a track record in putting public health first when it comes to alcohol. We have highlighted our concerns to proposals in the Sale of Alcohol Bill to enhance alcohol availability through extended licensing hours and increased alcohol outlets. These proposals are in direct conflict with the aims of the PHAA which is to reduce alcohol consumption. We welcome that the new Taoiseach has committed to taking a second look at the bill and his recognition of concerns around road safety. There is a strong association between increased alcohol availability and drink driving. This is a critical issue and government must not introduce new measures which would in any way increase the tragic toll on our roads. AAI is also very pleased to see the appointment of Colm Burke, TD, as Minister of State for Public Health, Well Being and the National Drugs Strategy. We very much appreciated the commitment to progressive alcohol policy which Minister Burke has shown over many years particularly in relation to the passage of the PHAA and ongoing interest in issues which AAI has been raising such as the need for a dedicated Office for Alcohol Harm Reduction. 

Dr Gilheany continued: “We are very pleased to see a renewed interest in alcohol policy. There is still a considerable way to go in addressing the harms from alcohol. The World Health Organisation has cited data indicating that the cost of alcohol harm in high income countries is 2.5% of GDP when harm to others is fully included. For Ireland that is €12 billion annually. Reducing that cost requires a reduction in alcohol consumption which clearly has an impact on the bottom line of the highly profitable alcohol industry. Not surprisingly at every stage when progressive alcohol policies are put forward, they are met with ferocious resistance from vested interests and a campaign of disinformation which seeks to hide the devastating harm which alcohol causes to individuals, children, families and the State. However, improvements in our health and economy can only benefit all of society. Increasing alcohol availability through proposed extended licensing hours and venues runs absolutely counter to current government policy which is to reduce alcohol consumption.  Leadership from government is needed or else this industry will continue to both set and move the goalposts for alcohol regulation.” 

Editor’s notes: 

  1. Revenue data available at Quarterly update for alcohol ( 
  2. CSO population data at: Summary Results ( 
  3. 70% of individuals aged 15 or older report consuming alcohol during the past 12 months. Healthy Ireland Survey 2023 
  4. WHO – Resource tool on alcohol taxation and pricing policies 
  6. AAI’s media language guide can be accessed here