THE chair of a controversial new drinks industry-funded anti-alcohol campaign has said criticism of the initiative is "premature".
Fergus Finlay defended the 'Stop Out-of-Control Drinking' campaign hours after TV doctor Ciara Kelly stepped down from the board citing "time constraints".
The announcement came one day after more than 50 individuals and groups, including politicians, health groups, youth movements, and even a former GAA president, wrote an open letter to Diageo condemning the €1m campaign. The letter questioned the independence of the group and claimed it is "not genuinely designed to tackle alcohol-related harm".
At a public meeting of the campaign, Mr Finlay last night told the Irish Independent that Dr Kelly's decision to step had nothing to do with the growing criticism of the campaign.
"She's over-committed, as it happens, because of time clashes and so on. She hasn't been able to attend any meeting so far and she just felt she couldn't devote the time and effort," he said, adding Dr Kelly made the decision to step down last week.
He also said he would have preferred if those who wrote the letter had come to him first.
"I think the criticism they're offering is entirely legitimate and is a very appropriate challenge as far, as I'm concerned. But I also think it's premature," he said.
"We haven't done anything yet. We're engaged in the first phase of the campaign which is about evidence gathering.
"We will be producing a very detailed, well-founded plan after we have finished gathering our evidence and I would have thought that that is the time to decide if this is a plan worth criticising or getting behind."