Where is the evidence for generating this exporting disaster?

“I am travelling & writing this note in the early hours – a distraction my team & I don't need in a very competitive international market,” wrote Drumshanbo Gunpowder Gin’s Chief Executive PJ Rigney to local Fine Gael TD for Sligo-Leitrim Tony McLoughlin, “I am deeply unhappy with Fine Gael’s approach to this bill, the lack of consultation & the propagation of outdated stereotypes & suspect research on alcohol consumption & its health effects provided by lobbyists in the health sector, some of whom appear to have an extreme & narrow agenda.”

The Shed Distillery Chief Executive’s words eloquently summarise what the drinks industry feels about the way in which the Government has introduced the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill.

Its labelling and advertising restrictions are not only patronising in the extreme to the general public, but based on a complete lack of evidence that these actions will achieve one iota of their intended aim of reducing alcohol abuse.

As the debate rolls on, what’s clear is that the Bill still requires a lot more airing before the baby is lost alongside the bathwater.

With the Government trying to give exporters a leg-up on the one hand while pulling them back down again with the other, it’s a push-me/pull-you of a conundrum for TDs around the country.

Let’s be clear, the introduction of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill in its present unrefined format will be disastrous for the Irish beverage industry going out to the international market.

“In my 40 years working in the business, I’ve never witnessed a Government attempting to introduce such a damaging piece of legislation,” commented Jim Bradley, Chair of the Irish Wine Association, echoing the thoughts of so many people in the industry about its effects on the Irish wine trade.

And then there’s the consumer. It’ll probably be some time before the degree of patronisation and Nanny Stateism contained in this Bill becomes clear. But by then, of course, it will be too late – both for the consumer and for the country’s thriving drinks export industry, one of the country’s most notable successes.

The arguments against this Bill would carry a lot less weight if there were peer-reviewed evidence to be adduced in its favour, but without that, it merely serves to spancel Ireland’s galloping reputation abroad for producing excellent spirits and beers.

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