Friday 21 October 2016

DCU academics attack Diageo's €1m funding for drinking campaign

Published 18/04/2015 | 02:30

Professor Anthony Staines, chair of health systems at the School of Nursing and Human Sciences in Dublin City University
Professor Anthony Staines, chair of health systems at the School of Nursing and Human Sciences in Dublin City University

Two of DCU's leading academics have criticised the controversial Diageo-funded 'Stop Out-of-Control Drinking' campaign, despite the fact that it is being backed by the university.

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The campaign has received €1m in funding from the drinks giant, which was represented on the campaign board until last month.

There have been four high-profile resignations from the board in recent weeks but DCU president Professor Brian MacCraith continues to sit on it.

DCU is also named alongside Diageo on the list of the campaign's supporting partners.

However, Professor Anthony Staines, the chair of the Health Systems programme in the School of Nursing and Human Sciences in the Dublin university, said he personally believes the Diageo links to the campaign are a "conflict of interest" which "cannot really be managed".

"There are a bunch of people who drink, do stupid and dangerous stuff, and hurt themselves and other people. It makes sense to say that we need to do something for that group of people.

"The Diageo link [to the campaign] is a problem," Dr Staines said.

"There is a general piece of advice in the public health community that you don't take tobacco control money from cigarette companies. You don't take alcohol control money from drinks companies."

Professor Niall Moyna, from DCU's School of Health and Human Performance and a member of the Centre for Preventive Medicine, also personally believes there is a "phenomenal culture of over-indulgence in alcohol" in Ireland.

"Is Diageo the ideal company to be funding it? Probably not," Professor Moyna said.

"But at least we are debating the issue and the fact that they are probably assisting with the funding is helping with that debate - and that is very helpful in the first place that we are having a robust debate about it."

DCU also has other links with the drinks company. A spokesperson for the university confirmed Diageo had pledged €20,000 in 2009, 2010 and 2011 for their Access scholarship programme.

The institute also confirmed that DCU Business School lecturer Tony Foley produces reports for the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland on a "consultancy basis".

One of these reports - 'The Contribution of the Drinks Industry to Tourism' - was launched last August at a debate which was facilitated by another DCU lecturer.

Stop Out-of-Control Drinking, which is led by children's charity boss Fergus Finlay, has been embroiled in controversy since its inception in February.

Four members of the board stepped down recently with some citing personal time and resource constraints.

David Smith, the head of Diageo Ireland, also stepped down last month because of a perceived lack of independence due to the company's involvement.

His resignation came after Dr Ciara Kelly, Krystian Fikert (the founder of mental health charity My Mind) and Paul Gilligan (the chief executive of St Patrick's Mental Health Service) all stepped down within a few weeks of each other.

There are 11 remaining board members, including Rob Hartnett - the CEO of Sport for Business - which boasts Diageo as one of its members on its website.

A spokesperson for DCU said that Professor Brian MacCraith was "not available to comment on this matter".

Irish Independent

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