Fiona Ryan, chief executive of Alcohol Action Ireland, said policymakers know what needs to be done to combat the alcohol problem, but “don’t want” to do it.
Health expert Professor Joe Barry said there was no evidence the Government shared the view that action needs to be taken.
They were addressing a seminar organised by Alcohol Action Ireland and Depaul Ireland, which works with the homeless.
“Policymakers know what needs to be done, but don’t want to do it,” said Ms Ryan.
She said the Government will make noises about acting, while at the same time wanting to maintain the revenue from alcohol consumption.
She said the argument in favour of sports sponsorship was illogical: “The argument is we need alcohol money to fund sports to keep young people away from alcohol.”
Ms Ryan said alcohol sponsorship was “not altruistic”, but a calculated trade off: “You give us access to the young male markets and in return we give you money. Are we willing to accept this trade off? The unfortunate collateral damage are children.”
She said alcohol had become so normalised in shopping that it was pushed as “just another grocery”.
Prof Barry of Trinity College Dublin said there was a growing view in society that something had to be done, but he added: “There is no evidence to show that is shared by the Government. That’s the worrying matter. Politicians have done very little; they have done a disservice to the State.”
Meanwhile, a programme on drink awareness funded by the alcohol industry has welcomed figures showing that fewer adolescents had consumed alcohol. The Department of Health report showed that 54% of children aged 10 to 17 reported never drinking alcohol, compared to 40% in 2002.
“It is very important that our teenagers are made aware of the fact that the majority of Irish 10-17-year-olds abstain from alcohol,” said Fionnula Sheehan of drinkaware.ie.