Ministers clash over proposals to tackle abuse of alcohol

FINE GAEL and Labour Ministers are at odds over proposals to counter alcohol abuse which are due to come before Cabinet tomorrow.

A number of Fine Gael Ministers, including Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney, have expressed reservations about aspects of a plan on alcohol drawn up by Labour Minister of State at the Department of Health Róisín Shortall.

Consequently, Labour sources fear the proposals in Ms Shortall’s memorandum to Government may be put on the back-burner by Cabinet and deferred until autumn for consideration.

“There’s a lot of push back on this. We’re afraid they may kick to touch, just when leadership is needed on alcohol misuse,” said a Labour source last night.

Some Fine Gael Ministers, including Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald, are supportive of the proposals, as are Labour Ministers. However, some Fine Gael Ministers have argued that measures should be targeted at those who abuse alcohol rather than applying across the population. The document argues that people’s level of alcohol consumption generally is unhealthy.

They also have continuing reservations about plans to restrict drinks advertising and to curb, and eventually phase out, sponsorship by alcohol companies.

Earlier proposals to restrict arts and sports sponsorships by the drinks industry met with opposition from six Ministers but these have been since been watered down. Sponsorship was supposed to end in 2016 but Ms Shortall has agreed to extend the deadline by a number of years.

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