An alert was sent out by a messaging app to members in Leinster House appealing for them to attend the fifth- floor meeting. “We need bodies in the PP room. 15 doctors but no TDs or senators!” the message read.
Guests at the Fine Gael meeting included president Frank Murray and Dr Maeve Skelly from the Royal College of Physicians; St Vincent’s Hospital consultant Aiden McCormick; College of Psychiatrists consultant John Hillery; and Dr Marie Laffoy, a health medicine specialist. A list named nine doctors and experts there.
Party sources confirmed the room was near empty when the delegation and minister arrived before 5pm. A WhatsApp message was sent asking members to turn up. But it was felt by some that the health expert group presentation backfired: “They were all brought in to tell us how bold we are and nobody turned up,” quipped one party source.
Ms Corcoran Kennedy is trying to introduce plans to restrict alcohol sales and stop excessive drinking. But Fine Gael is facing internal war over a section of the Public Health Alcohol Bill, proposing to segregate drink sales in shops.
Small retailers are lobbying to change section 20 or to get exceptions, claiming it will cost jobs.
Fine Gael parliamentary party chairman Martin Heydon said Prof Murray had approached him and asked to speak to the party. Members though were not pleased.
“There was a lot of disquiet, but they [the doctors] were very determined. It felt like being talked down to,” another source said.
Kerry TD Brendan Griffin asked the doctors, when drink was compared to cigarettes, whether Mars bars, Maltesers or Tayto Crisps would be hidden away next.
Ms Corcoran Kennedy says she wants to find a compromise.