Ireland: Big Alcohol Lobbying Onslaught Exposed

Big Alcohol lobbying avalanche in Ireland during 2018, the year the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill was eventually enacted, has been exposed through research by Alcohol Action Ireland.

According to findings of Alcohol Action Ireland, the alcohol industry registered 96 lobbying returns in 2018, the year that the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill was eventually enacted, but not implemented. The returns show Big Alcohol lobbyists met with officials on 361 occasions during the 108 days when the Dáil, the parliament of the Republic of Ireland, was in session. The bill was passed after a 2 year delay in the Seanad.

The key findings are as follows:

  • Four of the top 10 global alcohol businesses were among eight alcohol producers, four public affairs consultancies and 14 linked businesses including vintners and advertisers who between them met eight Cabinet Ministers including the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar as well as his chief adviser and the Government Chief Whip and deputy whip.
  • The lobbyists also had 36 separate meetings with Ministers of State across all portfolios and 12 meetings with ministerial special advisers in eight departments including the Department of Health.
  • They also met individual TDs on 309 occasions, and contacted each TD by letter or email 17 times that year.

The onslaught of pressure on Irish parliamentarians to stall and/or amend the alcohol legislation was incessant and unrelenting, said Eunan McKinney, Director of communications and advocacy for Alcohol Action Ireland, as per The Irish Times.

This has been the principal source of delay to enacting a framework for alcohol control and probably the reason, now, for the further delay in its implementation,” he added.

State of implementation of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill

Only a few parts of the Bill have been implemented despite it being over 16 months since being enacted. The few laws which were implemented include:

  • Removal of alcohol advertisements within 200 metres from schools and in public transport.
  • Restriction of alcohol advertising in cinemas for over 18 films.

In November 2020, the structural separation of alcohol from other products in supermarkets, shops and petrol stations will be implemented.

However, many of the major clauses in the Bill to control alcohol and prevent and reduce harm have not yet been implemented. These include:

  • Minimum unit pricing (MUP),
  • Broadcasting watershed to prevent alcohol advertising before 9pm, and
  • Labelling of alcohol products with ingredients, caloric content and a health warning on the alcohol and cancer link.

The laws which are not yet implemented include World Health Organization recommended alcohol policy best buys which can reduce alcohol harm in the most cost-effective way. It’s imperative that the government stands against the lobbying onslaught of Big Alcohol and implement the alcohol control laws in the Bill, specifically considering the harm to children and adolescents from alcohol. 

National level laws are important to reduce alcohol harm in the country as one scientific study found, the majority of alcohol consumption and related harms in the Irish population are accounted for by low- and moderate-risk alcohol users and binge alcohol users. 

Alcohol Use Patterns and the Distribution of Alcohol-Related Harms in Ireland

Source Website: The Irish Times