A MEMBER of the Stop Out-of-Control Drinking group has accepted that the body's funding by drinks giant Diageo has created a "credibility gap" for the campaign.
Gavin Duffy said he believed the drinks group would not be involved in the campaign in the coming years.
The entrepreneur and 'Dragons' Den' panellist said he believed the group was correct to take funding from Diageo, whose brands include Guinness, but said he respected people's right to question it.
"For me, I think if we can get the funding to start the campaign and start the debate like this to go forward, that is important. I don't see Diageo involved in this into the distant future," he said.
Mr Duffy said the issue was raised by people at meetings, but insisted the group itself was often first to address the matter.
"It has created a credibility gap which is a problem but only a minor problem when you see the number of sign-ups.
"The marriage equality campaign has 4,000 people signed up. We're at 11,000 at the moment. The public support for it is very different from the coterie of health professionals who are very concerned about it," he added.
Mr Duffy made the comments as he apologised to a man who claims he was asked to leave a public meeting after raising concerns about Diageo's involvement.
While he apologised to Galway man Tommy Roddy for any misunderstanding, Mr Duffy rejected claims that he had asked the man to leave the Galway meeting.
"It's just not my style to try to cut somebody off. For me personally, I find it offensive to say I would try and stop somebody expressing a view.
"But if that was his impression, I'm happy to apologise for that. My view of it was I did not ask him to leave and he actually did stay on," he told the Irish Independent.
The matter arose when Mr Roddy expressed his reservations about the involvement of Diageo.
Mr Roddy says Mr Duffy told him: "If you're not happy with the initiative, you should leave."
"I told them we had to talk about the elephant in the room which hadn't been mentioned and that was the funding. I made my point and I felt it wasn't taken on board. It wasn't my intention to disrupt the meeting and I didn't walk out but I did leave when the group work began. If my point had been taken on board, I would have stayed and worked on the campaign but it wasn't," said Mr Roddy.
The Stop Out-of-Control Drinking campaign has come in for criticism from a number of fronts over the funding by Diageo.
More than 50 individuals and organisations have voiced their opposition to the campaign. The group has also seen the resignation of two board members.