Shortall’s proposals postponed

Fine Gael and Labour Ministers in the Government having clashed over Minister of State at the Department of Health Róisín Shortall’s proposals to tackle alcohol abuse, has led to any Government consideration of the subject being postponed to this September by Cabinet.

Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney had already expressed reservations about certain aspects of Minister Shortall’s plans for alcohol as drawn up, such as restricting drinks advertising and the curbing and eventual phasing out of alcohol sponsorship. As a result, the Labour Minister’s memorandum to the Cabinet was put back for discussion until September.

“There’s a lot of push back on this,” stated a Labour source recently.

While some Fine Gael Ministers such as Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald are supportive of the proposals, others have argued that any measures should be targeted at those abusing alcohol rather than across the board.

Under the proposals, sponsorship was due to cease in 2016 but Minister Shortall has agreed to extend the deadline by a number of years.

As well as introducing a minimum price for alcohol, she also wants to introduce a ‘responsibility levy’ on the industry that would fund campaigns to highlight the dangers of alcohol. The levy would be based on advertising and marketing spend by the drinks companies.

Similar measures are being considered in Northern Ireland and Britain.

Stricter rules on labelling covering the level of alcohol in a product, calorie content and provision of ‘danger messages’ are also being considered.

An inspector would be appointed to monitor progress in these areas and publish annual reports.

The legislation aims to reduce consumption from 12 litres per year to the OECD average of 9.3 litres.

Supermarkets – accounting for 95 per cent of the off-trade – are likely to be the most affected by the changes.

A recent HRB survey found that a majority of people support the introduction of minimum pricing though most opposed banning drinks company sponsorship of sporting events.


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