Ireland’s bid to host the Rugby World Cup in 2023 would not be damaged if a proposed ban on drinks companies sponsoring sports event was imposed.
That’s the view of high-profile spin doctor, Alastair Campbell, who was in Ireland to lend his support for the campaign to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol and other measures to deter alcohol abuse.
Mr Campbell, who rose to fame as media advisor to British prime minister Tony Blair, told a newly formed all-party Oireachtas Group on Alcohol Misuse that legislators needed to “do the right thing”.
“You get the argument that Ireland is not going to get the Rugby World Cup if this anti-alcohol thing goes on,” he said. “But golf has not died, snooker has not died, darts have not died. They have got better because their image has been improved by shedding their relationship with tobacco.”
Mr Campbell said the alcohol industry was effectively controlling health policy.
The new Oireachtas grouping wants politicians from all parties to push for the passing of the Public Health Alcohol Bill, which contains ambitious proposals for restricting the availability and advertising of alcohol.
Its chairman, Labour TD Ged Nash, said: “It costs the health services around €1.2 billion every year — that equates to the entire budget for HSE West.”
The human costs were outlined by representatives of frontline services, including emergency department nurse Anne Burke, who described the mayhem, aggression and agitation drunken patients brought to hospitals, as well as the dread of having to console distraught parents learning that their son or daughter has had a serious drink-related accident.
The new grouping is backed by Alcohol Action Ireland which is to act as its secretariat.
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