“Nobody disagrees that alcohol misuse and underage drinking should be addressed,” said ABFI Director Patricia Callan, “But we need a piece of legislation that’s effective, evidence-based and does not do undue harm to an important Irish industry.
“While we as an industry support the objectives of the Bill, we are concerned about a number of proposed measures and for some time have been calling for sensible amendments to be made to balance the Bill.
“In particular, we’re concerned about the proposal to add cancer warning labels to our quality products. This is because no other country in the world has mandatory cancer labels on alcohol products and legislating for them here would have a hugely negative reputational impact on our brands.
“The amendments that have been submitted are required to protect the reputation of Ireland’s quality drinks brands, to allow continued innovation in the drinks sector, to ensure brewery and distillery visitor centres can grow and to safeguard rural jobs and the economy.
“This is an important piece of legislation and TDs that have submitted these amendments are rightfully trying to get the Bill right, not to delay it.
“For the Department of Health-funded Alcohol Action Ireland to claim that they are somehow delaying the legislation or disregarding public health is both disingenuous and false,” she continued, “I fail to see how deleting a cancer warning label or allowing tourists see directional signage to visitor centres can be seen as promoting underage drinking or alcohol misuse.
“The fact that there is cross-party support for these amendments reflects the long and detailed debate on the bill and an acceptance of the need for reasonable and thoughtful amendments to be made.”
The amendments by the cross-party group of TDs’ have also been welcomed by drinks producers across the country.
If passed, the amendments will remove the requirement for cancer warnings to be added to alcohol products and will ensure distillery and brewery visitor centres are exempt from the strict advertising restrictions that are set to be introduced.
“I’m strongly in favour of these amendments as they’ll help protect rural jobs, the reputation of Ireland’s food and drinks industry and the economy as a whole,” said Pat Rigney the Founder and Managing Director of The Shed Distillery in County Leitrim which produces the world-renowned Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin.
His distillery is based in Drumshanbo, County Leitrim, where it continues to create valuable local employment and drive tourist footfall in a rural part of the country.
“Since setting up in 2014, we’ve invested over €4 million in the local area,” he said, “We’re also currently investing €2 million in our new visitor centre which will drive local tourism and create jobs when it re-opens. This continued investment and growth should not be put at risk. It’s vital that these amendments are passed in full to protect our rural and national food and drinks economy.”
The Chief Executive of the Carlow Brewing Company Seamus O’Hara, echoed these comments.
“Ireland is experiencing a craft beer revolution at the moment and consumers are becoming more adventurous in their choices, with a range of new products on the market,” he stated, “The craft beer industry is creating an environment where customers are more interested in moderate consumption and quality is finally becoming far more important than quantity.
“22% of beer produced by Irish microbreweries in 2016 was exported to international markets. The continued growth of the sector is reliant on exports. Creating labels for individual markets would be unsustainable for breweries of our size. The health and wellbeing of our customers is paramount and we strongly feel it is the combined responsibility of breweries, publicans, off-licences, retailers and government to promote the positive message of moderation and balance.”
John Quinn, Global Brand Ambassador of Offaly’s Tullamore Dew, added, “We’re growing our business around the world and our distillery and visitor centre are very important elements of that drive. The new bill would not allow us to direct tourists to our visitor centre. The amendments would ensure that the tourists to Offaly will be directed to the home of the whiskey they enjoy in their home country. This tourist attraction is a very important contributor to the economy of the town and county of Offaly.”
His colleague Michael Scully, the Founder and Chief Executive of Clonakilty Distillery in County Cork, agreed, stating, “These amendments are vital as we need the freedom to be able to innovate and introduce new products to the home market without the threat of reputationally-damaging cancer warning labels being added to our products. Earlier this year, we launched our new Minke Gin to the market, which would have been hugely challenging if the Alcohol Bill was in place as it stands.
“We expect to be launching our new visitor experience later this year which, over time, will bring much-needed extra business and revenue to the town of Clonakilty. If we’re not able to advertise this without restrictions, our hands would be tied behind our backs before we even started, which is again why these amendments are important.”