Publicans lobbied to ban sale of alcohol at sports clubhouses

A trade association representing Dublin’s publicans had lobbied the Government to ban the sale of alcohol at sports clubhouses instead of prohibiting drinks companies from sponsoring sports events.

The Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) made the proposal to the previous health minister, James Reilly, as part of its submission on the Government’s Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, which is expected to come before the Oireachtas this year.

“We believe that a ban on alcohol sponsorship of sports events would be completely ineffective and would not achieve any of the objectives in terms of reducing underage access to, and consumption of, alcohol,” LVA CEO Donall O’Keeffe wrote on July 15, 2013.

“It would be a far more tangible step to prohibit the sale of alcohol at all sports clubs if the Government wishes to send a clear message regarding linking alcohol to sport.”

Mr O’Keeffe said the LVA backed minimum pricing but was “terrified” such a measure would be achieved by raising excise duty.

“Excise further widens the price differential between the pub trade and off-licences, costs jobs in the employment-intensive on-trade, and costs the exchequer in terms of reduced Vat as alcohol sales switch to the multiple retailers,” he said.

Mr O’Keeffe said the LVA would be in favour of a “lid-on levy” that targets off-licence trade.

The correspondence was one of dozens sent to both Mr Reilly and his successor, Leo Varadkar, from June 2013 to February 2015 regarding the Alcohol Bill.

The letters have been released to the Irish Examiner under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, the Irish Medical Organisation, and the Environmental Health Association Ireland all wrote in favour of a ban on alcohol sponsorship of sports events.

The National Youth Council of Ireland suggested a “social responsibility levy” on drinks companies which would be allocated to sports organisations hit by any sponsorship ban.

“Alcohol is a drug and, as such, should not be perceived as a normal component of sporting activity,” said Frank Murray, chair of the RCSI Policy Group on Alcohol.

The health ministers also received forwarded correspondences that TDs had received from constituents.

One man told Fine Gael and Labour TDs in Cork East that they could lose his vote if “unfair” minimum pricing was introduced.

“I don’t believe that I can support any party in a future election who has implemented this bill,” the man warned.

“So, who to vote for? I would never vote for Sinn Féin or any of the loony left, so that just leaves Fianna Fáil. And I really don’t want to vote for Fianna Fáil!

“Please, before you support this legislation, consider my distress at voting Fianna Fáil!”

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