Gilmore backs ban on alcohol sponsorship

The Government is on a collision course over proposals to address alcohol misuse by banning drink companies from sponsoring major sporting events.

It has emerged that Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore supports the plans to ban alcohol sponsorship but his Fine Gael colleague, Sports Minister Leo Varadkar, has reservations about such a move.

The Cabinet is set to review its alcohol strategy, which is being led by Alex White, junior health minister, next week.

The proposals are said to contain the introduction of a ban on alcohol sponsorship by 2020 and a ban on new sponsorship contracts from 2016.

A spokesman for Mr Gilmore said he fully supported Mr White’s proposals. He said these included proposals for an outright ban by 2020. There was still some “toing and froing” to be done by Cabinet members on the alcohol strategy memo, the spokesman added.

However, the Labour leader’s support for a ban is in stark contrast to Mr Varadkar’s reaction to such a move.

He said yesterday: “If there is a [sponsorship] ban on sport, where are the alternative sources of revenue going to come from?

“Why are arts and cultural events being treated differently? I don’t understand that, particularly with so many young people attending concerts and cultural events. The major issue here from my point of view is to ensure that there’s a steady stream of funding for sport.

“We will need to take part in international competitions which will continue to be sponsored by international companies whether we like it or not.”

Mr Gilmore, speaking in Dublin, indicated that he, too, wanted alternative sponsorship for sports events to counter alcohol misuse.

“It’s a major social issue in Irish society. Obviously, the practicality of ending sponsorship or curtailing sponsorship has to be addressed in seeing to it that there are alternative sources of funding available for sporting organisations.”

The Taoiseach, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said the alcohol strategy would be brought before Cabinet members next week.

Ministers have until the end of this week to respond to the alcohol strategy proposals, which also address calls for minimum pricing on drinks and the positioning of products in stores.

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