The Times, 27 October: Two thousand died while alcohol law stalled, says charity

The Times, 27 October: Two thousand died while alcohol law stalled, says charity

October 27th, 2017

Drinking has claimed the lives of 2,000 people since the government first began deliberating over the controversial Alcohol Bill two years ago, a charity has claimed.

Alcohol Action Ireland (AAI) also said more than 100,000 children have started drinking since the legislation was first raised in the Seanad.

Leo Varadkar said on Wednesday that the long-stalled 2015 bill would be reintroduced in the Seanad in November. It aims to greatly reduce drinking by 2020 and to reduce the harm associated with alcohol.

Measures include ending below-cost selling through minimum unit pricing; placing more restrictions on alcohol advertising and sponsorship; providing for strict labelling on bottles and cans.

AAI has raised concerns about the delay in bringing the legislation through the Oireachtas. The charity said that in November it will have been 700 days since the bill began its legislative deliberations in the Seanad.

“Regrettably over the duration of this delay to enactment, our national consumption of alcohol continues to rise, a further 2,000 lives have been lost to alcohol-related illnesses, over 100,000 children have commenced drinking and alcohol continues to be a contributing factor in half of all suicides in Ireland,” the charity said.

Eunan McKinney of AAI said the charity was confident “this progressive piece of legislation can significantly and positively alter Ireland’s harmful relationship with alcohol”. “This legislation is the most far-reaching proposed by any Irish government, with alcohol being addressed for the first time as a public health issue.” he said.

Mr McKinney added that if the bill is enacted in this parliamentary session “2018 may bring a beginning to de-normalising our cultural affair with alcohol, as we seek to reduce our per capita consumption by 20 per cent from 11.46 litres to 9.1 litres per capita by 2025”.

The bill is supported by some publican groups but most alcohol companies who sell in the off-trade are against it.

The Convenience Stores and Newsagents Association of Ireland, which represents more than 1,200 shopkeepers, has said the bill was unfair to retailers. “It is paternalistic to suggest that grown adults will buy less alcohol if they cannot see it,” Vincent Jennings, chief of the CSNA, has said.

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