Ireland: Concerns over heavy lobbying by alcohol industry against alcohol bill
In Ireland, the Standards in Public Office Commission is maintaining a register of lobbying (www.lobbying.ie).
An editorial in the Irish Medical Times runs through the numbers, giving a peek behind closed doors. Dara Gantly writes in the article entitled “Winning friends and influence“:
For the most recent period, September 1 to December 31, 2016, there were 3,358 returns, with 438 of these in the policy area of Health. It’s an eclectic collection of public records.
What was shocking was the extent of lobbying over Section 20 of the Alcohol Bill and its rules separating alcohol from other products in shops. Nearly every Centra [Centra is Ireland’s leading convenience retail group] in the country might have been involved (this is my one hyperbolic moment — I lost count). It’s hard to tell the real numbers when, for example, Cecil Whiteside is down as lobbying TDs Marc MacSharry, Tony McLoughlin and Eamon Scanlon over, and I quote, a “piece of legislation”, with the intention that “the piece of legislation would be reviewed and changed”.
It appears — not from the register — that Mr Whiteside is one of Sligo’s best-known retailers, operating the local Centra in Collooney and the SuperValu in Ballisodare. So could this legislation have been the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill? I find it a concern that the register would accept such vague explanations. It’s not very transparent.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again (‘Calling time on excessive lobbying’ Dec 16, 2016): if the DoH can curtail ministers and advisers from engaging directly with the pharmaceutical industry over the price of medicines, could we not stop lobbying over the Alcohol Bill and get it passed?”