Local Government TD, Tony McLoughlin has rejected a claim by Alcohol Action Ireland that his backing of “industry sponsored amendments” to the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill are backing the alcohol industry ahead of people’s health.
Alcohol Action Ireland has called on both Deputies Tony McLoughlin (FG) and Eamon Scanlon (FF) to withdraw their proposed amendments to the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, ahead of the forthcoming Report and Final Stages, which takes place today, Wednesday, 19th September.
Citing the continuous lobbying pressure from the alcohol industry, Alcohol Action highlighted that “regrettably these TDs, by further delaying enactment, are now advancing alcohol business interests rather than leading to protect the health and wellbeing of their constituents.”
Speaking ahead of Dáil Éireann’s autumn sitting, Eunan McKinney, Head of Communications and Advocacy at Alcohol Action Ireland, said, “By backing these industry sponsored amendments, these TDs are backing the alcohol industry ahead of people’s health.
“Their actions are encouraging more alcohol sales not less because they place a greater value on the thriving commercial interests of the alcohol industry rather than the lives of those who today, and into the future, will be impacted by harmful alcohol consumption.”
In reply, a spokesperson for Deputy McLoughlin stated there are a number of reasons why amendments were submitted to deal with the labelling and advertising aspects of the Bill only.
“From the onset it is important to be clear, we do not wish to delay the bill from becoming law. Quite the opposite actually as we fully support the overall aim of the Bill,” he said.
Deputy McLoughlin is a life long pioneer and fully supports the Governments efforts to reduce the levels of alcohol consumption in Ireland and tackle below cost selling of alcohol in shops and supermarkets.
“There are however a number of problems as we see it that have developed inside the Bill during its passage through the Seanad and as a result we feel they need to be addressed in order to protect jobs here in Sligo and in Leitrim in particular,” he said.
He further said it is also important to recognise that no other country in the world has mandatory cancer labels on alcohol products.
Deputy McLoughlin added that Irish producers will have to develop labels specifically for Ireland and a second set of labels for elsewhere which for small producers of premium products (such as The Shed Distillery in Drumshanbo) will lead to increased costs of production.
Meanwhile, Pat Rigney the Managing Director and founder of The Shed Distillery in Drumshanbo which produces the world renowned Drumshanbo Gunpowder Irish Gin has welcomed amendments submitted by a cross-party group of TDs to the Alcohol Bill.
The amendments, if passed, 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 will help protect rural jobs, the reputation of Ireland’s food and drinks industry and the economy as a whole,” Mr Rigney said.
“Our distillery is based in rural Ireland, in Drumshanbo, where it continues to create valuable local employment and drive tourist footfall.
“Since setting up in 2014, we have invested over €4 million in the local area.
“We are also currently investing €2m 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.”