Charity slams drinks industry call for tax cut

Alcohol Action Ireland has criticised attempts by the drinks industry to use Brexit as a way to secure a 15% reduction in tax on alcoholic drinks.

Last month, the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (DIGI) used its pre-budget submission to demand the reduction. It said a cut in alcohol excise was a “vital response to the new and immediate effect of the uncertainty caused by Brexit”.

Yesterday, DIGI’s Support Your Local campaign again raised the 15% reduction and said that a report it had commissioned DCU economist Tony Foley to complete highlighted the “massive and far-reaching” role of the drinks and hospitality sector in supporting Ireland’s tourism.

“The report states that the UK vote to leave the EU will impact on the Government’s ambitious targets for the tourism industry, outlined in its 2015 tourism policy,” DIGI said. “Therefore, the drinks and hospitality industry should be supported appropriately as it can contribute to the realisation of these ambitious tourism growth targets.”

The industry said Mr Foley’s report highlighted how the pub was mentioned by almost a third of visitors as positive distinguishing feature of Ireland.

“The report also states that the network of pubs, hotel bars and licenced restaurants across Ireland supports the regional spread of tourism,” the industry said.

Michael Storan, campaign manager for Support Your Local, said the excise reduction will foster growth in the drinks and hospitality sector and allow it to contribute to the Government’s tourism targets.

“This is particularly significant in the wake of the Brexit vote,” he said.

However, Alcohol Action Ireland accused the industry of once again placing tourism at the centre of its drive for cheaper alcohol “despite the fact that an excise duty cut would come directly at the expense of the health, wellbeing and safety of Irish citizens”.

“Tourism does not depend on the availability of cheap alcohol and those who say otherwise have no evidence to substantiate this claim,” said a spokesman. “However, we do know that the availability of cheap alcohol does play a key role in three alcohol-related deaths every day and the huge burden of alcohol harm on individuals, families and communities throughout Ireland.”

The charity said tourism is not impacted negatively by increases in excise duty. It said this was reflected by the two most recent years when excise duty was increased — 2013 and 2014 — which showed continuing growth in tourism expenditure and overseas tourists.

Alcohol Action Ireland said that while the drinks industry is keen to emphasise the pub and its role in tourism, it does not acknowledge that a cut in excise duty would also make the very cheapest alcohol on sale in supermarkets even cheaper too, thereby increasing the risks for those vulnerable groups, including young people, who favour the strongest, cheapest alcohol.

“Ultimately, the campaign for a cut in excise duty is not about tourism, which is thriving, it is about selling even more cheap alcohol, with supermarkets now accounting for the majority of alcohol sold in Ireland,” said the spokesman.

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