Echo Letters: Is drinking alcohol a ‘social lubricant’ or a harmful practice?

Dear Editor,

The proposal to separate alcohol from other products in outlets contained in Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2105 is an unaltered summary of Section 9 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2005, which passed all Oireachtas stages but never commenced, was debated in the Seanad where committee stage amendments were discussed introducing Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP), imposing obligatory labelling on alcohol detailing calories, ingredients and health warnings.

The Bill restricts advertising and segregates alcohol from other shop products to the disgruntlement of shop owners obliged to camouflage alcohol from public view.

Alcohol Dublin supermarket

Enormous lobbying slow-paced the Bill’s limited progress as Diageo’s executives launched a €1m campaign titled ‘Stop out-of-control drinking’ (SOOCD) and met a cross-section of TDs concerned about excessive alcohol consumption. Other campaigners pushing for alcohol restraint were ‘Responsible Retailers of Alcohol’ and ‘Mature Employment of Alcohol in Society’.

Opening the amendments debate Marcella Corcoran Kennedy said: “What we are trying to do is target harmful drinking with Minimum Unit Pricing. We are trying to target young people with MUP.”

The most passionate critics of the Bill were Paudie Coffey, Paddy Burke and Michelle Mulhern.

Dr James Reilly said: “If alcohol has a value, it is as a social lubricant. I refer to the pub, the club and places where there is supervision and an opportunity to mix. As I stated, alcohol is not like other products. It causes cancer”

After Scotland’s landmark ruling, hailed by health campaigners as: “a great day for Scotland’s health”, Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) will become a reality here.

Yours sincerely,
Gerry Coughlan,

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