Government will not back down on drink warning labels says Brian Hayes

Fine Gael's Brian Hayes: U-turn unlikely.

The Irish Government has insisted it will not back down on plans to put health warnings
on alcohol products, despite 11 EU countries firing “warning shots”  noverthe damage the deal could do to trade in and out of this country.

Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes said the minority government is determined to continue with the new legislation as any U-turn due to other EU members’ concerns would set “a dangerous precedent and must be opposed”.

It emerged over the weekend that 11 EU countries — Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, and the Netherlands — have lodged objections to the Government’s imminent public health alcohol bill.

The bill, which was approved last year and is currently at the second stage in the Seanad, includes plans to introduce health warnings and calorie counts on bottles and cans of alcohol sold in Ireland.

The key legislation, which medical groups have insisted is vital if Ireland wants to address chronic binge drinking, also includes provisions to block the sale of cheap alcohol and to ban TV and radio adverts promoting the products before the 9pm watershed.

However, despite the benefits of the would-be legislation, the 11 EU countries named above have said that they are worried about its possible effect on trade into and out of Ireland.

While Ireland has until the end of July to respond to the concerns, Mr Hayes yesterday stressed there is little possibility in the Government backing down.

In a statement, he said: “Member states must be able to react to ongoing health concerns, which are particular to those member states, in a determined and coordinated way.

“Health concerns and a proper response to Ireland’s binge drinking culture are best tackled at a local level, irrespective of internal market concerns.

“The commission issuing warning shots against Ireland on this issue denies the principle of subsidiarity and hampers public policy making in Ireland. It sets a dangerous precedent and must be opposed,” he said.

Doctors groups including the Irish Medical Organisation and the Irish Hospital Consultants Association have repeatedly called for increased legislative ways to highlight the dangers of alcohol amid growing concern about Ireland’s binge drinking culture.

They also believe the proposed new legislation, which was first pushed by ex-health minister James Reilly before being taken up by his replacement and new Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar, is key to tackling alcoholism in Ireland.


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