A BAN on alcohol sponsorship of sporting events is back on the table in a government clampdown on drink culture.
n the wake of a series of incidents related to drinking by young people, including the neknomination craze, the Coalition is pushing ahead with a tightening of the law on alcohol sales.
Writing in today's Irish Independent, Junior Health Minister Alex White said the legislation will mean the end of "dirt-cheap spirits and beer being sold at pocket-money prices".
On top of new minimum prices on cheap drink with high volumes of alcohol content, the Government is also to restrict sales promotions in off-licences.
A group in the Department of Health is to meet next week to move the legislation along. The new laws are intended to be published by the summer and passed by the end of the year.
Mr White says a package of measures will be contained in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill.
The bill emerged from an alcohol strategy signed off on by the Government last November.
"Some of these measures will be controversial, and will be opposed – as they have already made clear – by the drinks industry, who are, of course, fully entitled to express their views.
"But given the mounting pressure for action to curb excessive drinking, I believe the public will support what we are trying to achieve – so that calls for 'something' to be done can now be translated into action," the minister said.
Agreement on a ban on alcohol sponsorship of sports events was kicked to touch last year.
But Mr White says the issue has not been dropped and he is still pushing for the ban.
"We do not have a final decision yet on the proposal to phase out alcohol sponsorship of major sporting events.
"I remain firmly convinced that this should be done, even allowing a relatively lengthy lead-in period to help sporting bodies to find new sources of funding and sponsorship."
The ban on alcohol sponsorship was contentious in the Coalition as it was argued the sports bodies would not be able to find alternative income.
A compromise appeared to be reached whereby there would be a delay of years before it would be implemented. But there was no agreement on this approach so the decision was kicked down the line.
Minimum pricing is being brought in by the Government on what is described as cheap alcohol, relative to its strength. The change will target so-called '€5 naggins' of vodka and certain brands of strong lager and cider by bringing in a minimum price per unit of alcohol.
"It won't raise the price of every alcohol product, but dirt-cheap spirits and beer being sold at pocket-money prices would become a thing of the past," Mr White said.
"All alcoholic drink containers and promotional materials will have to carry compulsory health and advice warnings as well as their calorie count," said the minister.