Drinks body tried to alter damning report

A group representing the drinks industry sought to alter paragraphs and remove figures on alcohol-related rape and domestic violence from a special report shaping Government policy.

The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland sought to delete paragraphs and dilute the language in a report on substance misuse created by the National Substance Misuse Steering Group. That group, which sat for almost two years, was tasked with formulating an integrated approach to substance misuse, both alcohol and drugs. Its final report was published in February.

However, documents released to the Irish Examiner under a Freedom of Information request show that even though it had a position on the steering group itself, ABFI was deeply critical throughout the process leading up to the final report to Government.

At one point, the steering group created a draft document which it circulated to its members for consideration. ABFI suggested a number of changes, seeking the deletion of paragraphs which read:

* Alcohol was a potential trigger in one-third of cases of domestic violence.

* Among those who experienced severe domestic abuse, 34% of cases had alcohol identified as a potential trigger and in one-quarter of cases, alcohol was always involved.

* Alcohol intoxication is a factor in rapes.

* 45% of complainants and 41% of suspects were severely intoxicated around the time of the rape.

Instead it wanted to insert paragraphs which read:

* A survey of domestic abuse in Ireland in 2005 found that about one-third of cases of abuse were associated with the consumption of alcohol. However, alcohol consumption was always involved in only one-quarter of such cases.

* A Rape and Justice in Ireland briefing paper of September 2010 outlines research which indicates that decisions on the consumption of alcohol made by both men and women can have the effect of facilitating the incidence of rape and make detection and prosecution of rape more difficult and that alcohol consumption affects decisions on whether to report alleged rapes.

Rape Crisis Network Ireland said ABFI was trying to distance alcohol from sexual violence.

“We do not need to talk in these general terms when we have concrete evidence and know the facts,” said Cliona Saidlear of RCNI.

She also questioned why the alcohol industry was involved in the decision-making process in the first place.

A spokesperson for the federation said that while the majority of people consume alcohol responsibly, it “was fully committed to addressing alcohol misuse”.

“ABFI in no way sought to downplay the role of alcohol in incidence of rape and domestic violence. We fully recognise the severity of these issues. Nor did we seek to question any of the evidence presented to the steering committee in relation to rape and domestic violence. Rather we sought to emphasise all of the facts from the research that had been cited, and in this instance to avoid the simple presentation of particular statistics without sufficient context and explanation.”

It also pointed out that a minority report issued by ABFI at the time of publication of the final steering group report did not take issue with the section on rape and domestic violence, nor any of the measures proposed to address those.

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