Reilly urges drinkers to return to the pub
HEALTH Minister James Reilly has said people who want a drink would be better off going to the pub than over-indulging at home.
He wants the price of alcohol in pubs to come down – but says it should go up in off-licences and supermarkets in order to encourage more sensible drinking.
The minister said alcohol was far too freely available in off-licences and supermarkets. He also wants pubs to reduce their prices.
Dr Reilly reiterated his support for an end to the sponsorship of sports' events by drinks companies, saying this exposed young people to potentially harmful advertising.
He said: "I stand very firmly in the belief that we should separate the sponsorship of sports from alcohol."
The same arguments had been put forward when restrictions on sponsorship of sport by the tobacco industry were introduced. Although he was not comparing the two, he insisted that warnings of "the sky falling in" had not materialised.
"Nature abhors a vacuum," he added. "I have no doubt that as alcohol moves out other sponsors will move in."
He continued: "Sport is critically important to the development of young people. (Their) being brought to sporting events by families should be encouraged but they (young people) should not be exposed to alcohol advertising at those venues.
"We have evidence to show that the earlier you start drinking the bigger the problem you can have with it."
Asked to comment on reported comments by Diageo – which owns Guinness – that a ban on drink sponsorship might force the company to reduce spending in future, Dr Reilly said he "takes on board what they have to say".
He conceded: "The alcohol industry is a very important industry in this country."
The minister pointed to comments by liver specialists that they are now seeing cirrhosis in people in their 20s – which was evidence that they had started drinking young and had been drinking heavily.
Meanwhile, commenting on threats to burn his home by anti-abortion campaigners, he said it would not stop him from proceeding with the legislation.
Dr Reilly was referring to an anonymous letter which threatened to burn down his home in Rush, north county Dublin.
"Everyone is receiving all sort of threats," he said, adding that a lot of people were enduring unnecessary protests and protesters were going a lot further than they should.
He was not concerned for his own safety but his family would prefer these protests not to happen.
Dr Reilly added: "We're all in the same boat. There's an awful lot of people who have been at the end of this, but when the bill passes through the Dail – as I expect it to do – things will settle down. It is where we are at and we are determined to live up to our obligations."