Drinks industry lobbyists met Government ministers, senior officials and Oireachtas members more than 350 times the year the Dáil debated legislation aimed at combating harmful alcohol consumption.

Research by Alcohol Action Ireland to be presented at an international conference in Dublin this week shows that in 2018, the year the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill was enacted but not implemented, drinks industry representatives registered 96 lobbying returns. The returns showed meetings on 361 occasions when the Dáil was in session for only 108 days and passed the Bill after a 2-year delay in the Seanad.

The paper is to be delivered at the bi-annual meeting of the Global Alcohol Policy Alliance, a network of international not-for-profit organisations and people in public health agencies whose aim is to reduce alcohol-related harm worldwide. Drinks industry representatives have accused the organisers of excluding them from the event.

Director of Communications and Advocacy for Alcohol Action Ireland Eunan McKinney will tell conference delegates, “The onslaught of pressure on Irish parliamentarians to stall and/or amend the alcohol legislation was incessant and unrelenting. This has been the principal source of delay to enacting a framework for alcohol control and probably the reason, now, for the further delay in its implementation.”

Speaking in advance of the conference Mr McKinney said that in the more than 16 months since the Bill was passed ‘only two or three parts’ have been implemented, reports The Irish TImes. These include the removal of advertising from within 200 m of schools and from public transport. The result is very little advertising of alcohol outdoors. In cinemas, alcohol advertising can only be shown in films for over 18-year-olds.

However, Mr McKinney states that 510 days after the Bill was passed, “Ireland still does not have minimum unit pricing for alcohol products. It still is not informing its citizens of the known risk between alcohol and fatal cancers, and it still is allowing alcohol brands pitch their chat-up lines to the nation’s children.”

The conference was officially opened by Minister for Health Simon Harris who said, “The way we consume alcohol in Ireland damages our health, our society and our economy”.

“If we can reduce our alcohol consumption and delay the age at which our children start to drink, we will save lives and prevent the many serious illnesses that are caused by the misuse of alcohol.”

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