‘We had no choice but to submit a minority report’

  • Post category:News

Monday, October 08, 2012

Two organisations associated with the drinks industry rejected assertions they intended to undermine the report of the Government-appointed expert group on alcohol.

Mature Enjoyment of Alcohol in Society, an organisation funded by the industry, and the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland, representing manufacturers and suppliers, wrote their own minority reports.

They sat on the National Substance Misuses Strategy Steering Group, which published its report in February.

Fionnuala Sheehan of MEAS told the Irish Examiner she rejected allegations of undermining the report. She said she felt she had no choice but to submit a minority report.

She said only nine of the 33 members on the steering group objected to the minority reports being included in the appendices, as she requested.

The reports were published online on the Department of Health website with a footnote in the final report stating that.

Ms Sheehan said MEAS supported most of the report ’s recommendations, except those on an exclusively statutory-based approach to the sale, promotion, and marketing of alcohol and the introduction of a social responsibility levy.

ABFI acting director Jean Doyle said they played “a full and constructive role” in the group, and supported the overwhelming majority of the final recommendations.

“We have long-standing objections to further restrictions on advertising, marketing and sponsorship and the introduction of specific levies,” said Ms Doyle. “On that basis, ABFI submitted its minority report to the Steering Group.”

Correspondence from MEAS show it raised concerns about how the body was viewed by the committee, with chairman Tony Holohan in Jul 2010 referring to the “prejudicial tone” of a draft chapter.

In Jul 2011, in response to a draft report in Jan 2011, Ms Sheehan complained that the report did not mention the positive benefits of moderate alcohol consumption, and objected to statements that marketing led people to start drinking earlier.

She demanded that a statement that said “some members” of the group were concerned about the independence of MEAS be withdrawn.

In Sep 2011, she wrote again, describing as “gratuitously offensive” changes in a subsequent draft report where “some members” had been changed to “the majority” of the committee.

Ms Sheehan said this change “impugned” her integrity and that of the members of an internal complaints panel. She said the group ’s findings were driven by “prejudice rather than evidence”.