Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Health Billy Kelleher TD has accused the Government of bowing to pressure from big business instead of focusing on public health, following a dramatic u-turn on banning alcohol sponsorship of sports.  Instead of implementing a full ban, as had been promised in the Programme for Government, the Minister for Sport has vetoed the move, which will now be scrapped.

Deputy Kelleher commented, “The failure of this Government to live up to yet another promise is another indicator that it was never fully committed to the proposal in the first place.  Alcohol abuse is something that affects every community across this country.  According to Alcohol Action Ireland, 18-24 year olds have the highest incidents of harmful drinking, with 75% of this age group drinking to excess.  The research also found that there are almost twice as many deaths in Ireland due to alcohol, than for all other drugs combined.  These are frightening statistics that the Government is doing very little to address.

“A binge drinking epidemic has been sweeping across the country over recent years, due to the availability of cheaper alcohol and an increase in people drinking at home.  Unfortunately this Government has shown no leadership in tackling the problem.  We need to encourage younger people to engage in activities which are not focused around alcohol; however the intrinsic links between alcohol sponsorship and sports events makes it almost impossible to separate the two.  We should be promoting sports as an alternative to alcohol, but stadium, kit and team sponsorship by alcohol companies makes that task increasingly difficult.

“In 2012, then Junior Health Minister Róisín Shortall committed to phasing out the advertising of alcohol in conjunction with sporting events.  It now appears that that plan was shelved as soon as she left the Department.  Next week a Cabinet sub-committee is expected to sign off on legislation which will see alcohol sponsorship of sporting events maintained.  Minister Leo Varadkar’s claim that he would include an “enabling clause” for a ban has been found to be just another empty promise in a long line of climb-downs and u-turns, and ultimately will do nothing to address the scourge of alcohol abuse which is fast becoming a national crisis”.