Medical and community leaders who were members of an official alcohol strategy group have slammed Government moves to drop plans to ban alcohol sponsorship of sporting events.
Professor Joe Barry of TCD said such a decision would show the Government had “caved in to big multinationals” and was placing their interests “above that of the public health of young people”.
Community representative Fergus McCabe described the move as “absolutely disgraceful” and said it would show the Government “didn’t have the bottle to stick by what they know was right” in banning sponsorship.
Consultant psychiatrist Eamonn Keenan said he was “disappointed” by the reports, saying there was “clear evidence” that ending drink sponsorship helped reduce alcohol use in young people.
All three sat on the Government’s National Substance Misuse Strategy Steering Group, which, after three years’ research and discussion, published its report in February 2012.
The group — containing representatives from the community, medical groups, and government departments — made a list of recommendations including that alcohol sponsorship of sports and other events be phased out by 2016.
The recommendation has been strongly opposed by sporting groups and drinks companies.
The time-period was subsequently pushed out to 2020 after consultations with the industry.
At the end of last week, high-level Government sources said the proposal had been dropped on the basis there was no alternative funding available.
It followed a decision of the Cabinet committee on social policy the previous Monday. It is not clear when it will come before the full Cabinet.
“There is evidence of a link between alcohol sponsorship and branding and getting young people drinking younger,” said Prof Barry. “The Government knows that. They are making a decision that public health is not as important as the drinks industry.
“If the Government is saying there is no alternative funding, it does not say much about their perception of where the economy will be by 2020. It’s depressing the country has to depend on the alcohol industry. It’s a counsel of despair.”
Fergus McCabe of Citywide Drugs Crisis Campaign said it would be an “absolutely disgraceful” decision.
Mr McCabe, who is also chairman of Belvedere Football Club in Dublin, said it marks a “step backwards” after many years of work by what he said was a government strategy group, which had followed multiple previous reports recommending the same.
Dr Keenan, of the College of Psychiatry in Ireland, said: “I am disappointed and somewhat surprised. I thought the Government was looking at a timeframe for implementation.”
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