Alcohol abuse campaigners have called on the three political parties trying to form a new government to implement key measures in landmark legislation enacted nine months ago.
Alcohol Action Ireland said Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Green Party “must meet their commitments” towards the Public Health Alcohol Act 2018.
As the parties appear to be concluding their negotiations, the advocacy body said it was important to highlight that key provisions – on alcohol pricing, labelling, advertising and promotion – have still not been implemented, some 600 days on.
The charity said that they were acutely aware that the alcohol business, producers and retailers “under the guise of economic strain” were seeking to utilise their “significant influence” to further delay commencement of the measures.
It said the Covid-19 crisis had again shown society’s harmful use of alcohol, with trade data for the 12 weeks of the lockdown indicating a significant surge in off-trade sales.
“While licensed premises were closed, the levels of alcohol pouring into Irish homes, and the impact it may have on families where alcohol is already the source of harm and trauma, is deeply concerning,” AAI said.
It said the commencement of minimum alcohol pricing would have “quelled the reckless price war raging amongst our leading retail multiples”.
AAI said progress on warning labels on alcohol products as well as on the broadcast watershed and content of advertising would have better informed and protected consumers of the risk to their health.
It said Public Health Scotland this week published data showing a decline in population alcohol consumption following the introduction of minimum unit pricing.
“The economic difficulties Ireland now faces will undoubtedly impact levels of discretionary spending and so, we anticipate that alcohol consumption will likely fall,” AAI said.
“However, as the recovery from the previous economic crisis indicated, alcohol sales are resilient and since 2012, the underlying trend on Ireland’s drinking has been broadly upward.”
It said that the enactment of the Public Health Alcohol was a strong achievement in public health policy.
But it added: “Implementation should be easier, but momentum has slowed and regrettably inertia has taken hold.”
Industry body Drinks Ireland has previously said that overall they supported the objectives of the act to tackle alcohol misuse and underage drinking.
It said the measures introduced should be “proportionate, evidence-based and effective”.
It has said that the industry had been hard-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, with the global closure of the on-trade and restrictions in supply to many off-trade outlets imposing "severe commercial pressures" on businesses in the Irish drinks industry, threatening some.