Saturday 18 November 2017

Varadkar to fight drink sponsorship ban

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

TRANSPORT and Sports Minister Leo Varadkar is set to fight plans to ban the alcohol sponsorship of major events like the Heineken Cup and the Guinness Galway Hurdle.

Labour Junior Minister Alex White has circulated proposals to ministers to halt such alcohol sponsorship by 2020, with no new contracts from 2016.

Mr Varadkar is not convinced there is evidence to show that the move would reduce alcohol abuse among young people. He also has concerns about the proposal to only give him a consultative role on any changes – rather than the final say.

A Fine Gael source said it was notable that while alcohol sponsorship of sporting events was being targeted, "Labour-friendly" events, such as the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival and Dublin Fringe festival sponsored by Absolut Vodka, were being excluded.

But even though the issue is causing tension between Fine Gael and Labour, Mr White does have the backing of Fine Gael Health Minister Dr James Reilly.

The proposal would not affect the GAA, which recently announced that long-term hurling championship sponsor Guinness was being replaced by insurer Liberty Mutual.

Government sources said that the discussions on the memo were far easier with Mr White than with his predecessor, former Junior Minister for Primary Care, Roisin Shortall.

Ms Shortall has been critical of the fact that the action plan on alcohol, which she drafted last year, has still not gone before the Cabinet. Ministers have until the end of this week to give their observations and it is expected to go to Cabinet before the end of the month.

Yesterday, Mr Varadkar said any changes made here had to be "evidence-based".

He quoted a study from the Department of Children, which he said showed drinking by young people had gone down here, yet increased in France where there was a ban on alcohol sponsorship.

Irish Independent

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