Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Resumed)

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Measaim go bhfuil sé ríthábhachtach go ndéanfaimid ár ndícheall a chinntiú go mbeidh an Bille Sláinte Poiblí (Alcól), 2015 rite tríd an Teach seo chomh tapaidh agus is féidir. Is sláinte an phobail atá i gceist. Ba cheart dúinn a chinntiú nach leanfar leis an réimeas atá againn faoi láthair. Ba chóir dúinn daoine óga, go háirithe, a chosaint. Is fiú freisin cosaint a thabhairt dóibh siúd atá gafa leis an alcól nó faoi gheasa ag an alcól. Aithnítear go bhfuil alcól agus drugaí fite fuaite lena chéile. Bíonn na tascfhórsaí timpeall na tíre ag déileáil ní hamháin le ceist na ndrugaí mídhleathacha ach freisin le drugaí eile agus cad a tharlaíonn dá réir, go háirithe dóibh siúd atá gafa leo. Le blianta anuas, déanann na tascfhórsaí déileáil leis an gceangal idir an alcól agus an tionchar atá ag an alcól ar ghnáthdhaoine. Tá an straitéis ceannann céanna i gceist sa dá chás.

Nuair atáimid ag caint faoin ábhar seo, ní mór dúinn an cruachás ina bhfuil teaghlaigh timpeall na tíre, agus an tslí ina bhfuil siad ag déileáil leis na fadhbanna seo, a thuiscint. Go dtí seo, ba léir dóibh nach raibh aon chosaint acu.

Bhí siopaí, ollmhargaí agus off-licences nua á n-oscailt i ngach áit thart timpeall orthu agus iad ag díol an druga seo: alcól. Ní killjoy mise. Tá mise breá sásta deoch nó dhó, nó níos mó, a bheith agam ar ócáidí ach níl mé faoi gheasa ag an druga seo. Leis na blianta anuas tá an cruachás atá ag baint leis seo do theaghlaigh atá ar an ngannchuid feicthe againn. Fiú teaghlaigh a bhí go leor airgid acu, theip orthu déileáil leis seo. Bhí daoine sa tír seo a raibh gnólachtaí móra le fostaithe acu agus bhí saol teaghlaigh maith acu. Tar éis bliain nó dhó tugtha don ól nó do dhrugaí, áfach, ní raibh pingin rua fágtha. Sin an sórt rud atá i gceist. Ní raibh aon chosaint ann dóibh agus bhí fógraí i ngach áit thart timpeall orthu agus iad ag brú alcóil orthu. Bhí na fógraí seo ar an teilifís, sna nuachtáin, ag stadanna bus agus ar an raidió. Anois tá an reachtaíocht seo ag iarraidh déileáil leis seo agus molaim é. Ar a laghad, táimid sásta bogadh ar aghaidh agus iarracht a dhéanamh chun déileáil leis seo. Measaim nach dtéann an reachtaíocht fada go leor ó thaobh réimse amháin de ach táim sásta tacú leis an mBille seo.

Araon le gach duine eile sa Teach seo, fuair mé a lán litreacha agus achainí ó dhreamanna ar nós Retail Ireland, vintners' assocations agus a leithéid. Bhí comhlachtaí atá lonnaithe i mo cheantar féin ag impí orm gan tacú leis an mBille seo, agus tuigim iad. Tuigim cé chomh mór is atá an gnó seo, tuigim an méid infheistíochta a dhéanann siad ann, agus tuigim go mb'fhéidir go mbeidh siad beagáinín thíos leis ar feadh tréimhse. Ní sin atá i gceist, áfach. Is é an Stát atá thíos leis agus an fhadhb seo leis an alcól againn le ró-fhada anois. Tá gá dúinn seasamh éigin a ghlacadh mar tá na rialacha agus na ceadúnais chomh scaoilte sin nach fiú iad a bheith ann in aon chor. Tá an reachtaíocht seo chun rialacha a chur i bhfeidhm a dhéanfaidh sé níos deacra alcól a fheiscint, ní hamháin i bhfógraí ach sna hionaid atá a dhíol chomh maith.

I mo cheantar féin, san áit atá m'oifig agam i mBaile Formaid, níl ag oscailt le déanaí ach siopaí geallghlacadóra agus siopaí ina bhfuil alcól á dhíol iontu. Ní off-licences atá i gceist agam. Tá an méid céanna off-licences ann le tamall maith de bhlianta. Sna siopaí agus sna ollmhargaí atá á n-oscailt, tá spás curtha ar leataobh chun póirtéir, fuisce agus a leithéid a dhíol. Caithfimid stop a chur leis sin ionas nach mbeidh páistí ag déanamh ceangal amach anseo idir an dinnéar nó milseán a cheannach agus slab beorach a cheannach. Seo ceann de na bealaí chun tús a chur leis an troid seo.

Mar a dúirt mé, ní killjoy mise. Bainim sult as pionta nó dhó ach ní mise ceann dóibh siúd a bhíonn, mar a deirtear i mBéarla, locked nó fluthered gach deireadh seachtaine. Is fíorannamh a bhím san riocht sin. Tá daoine ann nach féídir leo maireachtáil gan a bheith ar meisce, áfach. Bíonn siad buckled nó, mar a deirtear i gCorcaigh, langered. Tá sraith fhocal ann agus ceapann daoine go bhfuil sé seo greannmhar ach tá sé seo an-dáiríre. Mar a dúirt mé, baineann sé seo le saol dhaoine.

Beidh mé chun tosaigh i slí amháin ar mo pháirtí mar beidh mé ag rá nár chóir alcól a bheith ar díol in aon siopa sa tír seo agus go mbeadh sé ar díol in off-licences amháin, mar a bhíodh sé. Le drugaí eile a cheannach, bíonn ar dhuine dul go dtí an poitigéir. Is druga é seo agus ba chóir go mbeadh ceadúnas áirithe ann chun é a dhíol agus ní chóir go mbeadh sé ar fáil i measc nithe eile. Mar a dúirt mé, fuair mé achainí ó chomhlachtaí. Tá an comhlacht is mó in Éirinn a dhíolann alcól - Guinness - lonnatihe i mo cheantar féin. Tá comhlachtaí nua atá ag díol fuisce sa tír seo lonnaithe ann chomh maith. Nílim ag iarraidh go mbeadh siad dúnta nó go mbeadh poist caillte. Tá siad ag déanamh an oiread sin airgid, áfach, nach gcuirfeadh sé seo isteach orthu beag nó mór. Dúradh gur thug 800,000 duine cuairt ar a whiskey distillery visitor centre anuraidh. Dream mór é seo agus an chuid is mó acu ag teacht ó thar lear chun turas a thabhairt orthu seo. Níl an reachtaíocht seo ag cur cosc ar fhógraíocht lasmuigh den tír seo atá ag iarraidh turasóirí a mhealladh isteach sa tír chun cuairt a dhéanamh ar Guinness, the Dublin Liberties distillery atá le hoscailt i mo cheantar féin agus a leithéid. Tá Teeling ann cheana fein agus tá Guinness ag tógáil distillery eile. Tá roinnt mhaith mhór díobh seo ann agus níl siadsan chun alcól d'aon sórt a chur ar fáil ach amháin má tá brabús i gceist leis, agus brabús an-mhór atá i gceist. Ní gá ach féachaint ar cá bhfuil na comhlachtaí móra alcól timpeall an domhain. Tá siad i mbarr a réime faoi láthair mar tá níos mó daoine ná riamh ag ól.

Ba chóir go mbeadh ceadúnas ag gach áit atá ag díol alcól agus baineann sé seo leis an Teach seo chomh maith céanna. Aon áit a bhfuil beár nó off-licence ann, ba chóir go mbeadh ceadúnas ann. Ó thaobh bialanna agus a leithéid, tuigim an t-athrú a tharla tamall maith de bhlianta ó shin ionas gur féidir le daoine suí síos agus buidéal beorach nó gloine fíona a bheith acu lena mbéile. Táimse ag déanamh tagairt do dhaoine atá ag ceannach peitril: bíonn 24 buidéal Budweiser nó Bulmer's, mar a ólann mise, os a gcomhair amach agus iad ar chostas an-íseal. Bíonn an costas i bhfad níos ísle ná mar a bhíonn sé in off-licences nó sna tithe tábhairne. Tá rud éigin mícheart nuair atá sé níos saoire dúinn dul áit éigin eile seachas na háiteanna atá an ceadúnas acu agus atá tar éis cloí leis na rialacha thar na blianta. Níl mé ag rá nach bhfuil fadhbhanna ann maidir le díolachán alcóil sna tithe tábhairne agus a leithéíd ach ní chóir go mbeadh muid ag ligean do níos mó áiteanna alcól a dhíol.

Tacaím go huile is go hiomlán leis an reachtaíocht seo. Mar a dúirt mé, ba chóir dó dul níos faide. Ba chóir go mbeadh muide sa Teach seo ag cur teachtaireachta chuig gnáthphobal na tíre agus chuig an aosóg go háirithe go bhfuil alcól dainséarach. Má tá sé dainséarach, ba chóir go mbeadh rialacha speisialta ann chun a dhéanamh cinnte de nach bhfuil sé ag déanamh damáiste d'ár sochaí amach anseo. Ní hamháin in Éirinn atá an fhadhb. Tá an fhadhb ann i dtíortha eile timpeall na hEorpa chomh maith.

Molaim an Bille agus tacóidh an páirtí leis. Ba chóir go mbeadh sé níos láidre, áfach. Tá go leor airgid ag na comhlachtaí móra chun teacht timpeall ar an mBille seo sna bealaí a thagann siad timpeall ar chosc ar fhógraíocht alcóil i dtíortha eile.

I very much welcome the Bill. It has been a long time coming and I might talk later about how we got here. The Labour Party will broadly be supporting the Bill. There are a couple of issues that need to be further explained, particularly to the public and those who work in the industry, and a couple of tweaks that may be possible.

I want to acknowledge those who have worked on this Bill in the past, including the former Minister, Mr. Alex White, and, in particular, the former Minister of State, Deputy Corcoran Kennedy, who put a lot of work into it and did not get much thanks for her efforts. It is possible that if she did not have the job of bringing in this Bill, she might still be sitting in the second row of Ministers across the Chamber. I want to acknowledge her role because she fought very hard for this.

As I said, I am broadly in support of this Bill for the obvious reasons that everyone in the House has spoken about. We have a serious problem with alcohol in this country. Ireland is the fourth heaviest drinking nation in the OECD in terms of quantity of pure alcohol consumed. We have a serious problem with binge drinking and we can see this all around us in our everyday lives. People are now nearly consuming more alcohol at pre-drinks gatherings than they do when they go out for drinks.

We can see it all around us, including in colleges, but it goes beyond that. Often when people meet in houses before going out, they consume more than when they actually go out.

It is causing real issues. We know about the health issues it causes and I emphasise the mental health issues. The long-term impact on mental health as a result of abuse of alcohol is seismic. Other long-term impacts include diseases, including liver disease in particular. It is a great cost to the State. The level of deaths attributable to this issue is beyond debate. It is a fact. As a country we need to wake up and deal with this issue in a real way. This Bill is a significant contribution to doing so.

As Labour's health spokesperson, I know that I could find many different ways of spending the level of funding that goes on dealing with health issues caused by alcohol misuse. I have spoken to many emergency department workers, nurses, doctors and even managers of various hospitals, who have told me of the amount of time and funding that goes on this and the chaos that it creates, especially at night, as a consequence of accidents or other alcohol-induced injuries or health failures. Our emergency departments are being clogged up as a result. It also causes serious domestic and social issues. We need to deal with this and do so quickly for future generations.

I am conscious that this Bill is being brought in to help future generations. As the father of six and seven year old children, I am very conscious of that. I am concerned by children's exposure to alcohol. I have a daughter who is fanatical about the GAA and with a father from Tipperary and a mother from Kerry, she is interested in matches and goes to Croke Park quite often. The Minister of State's native county is improving but he would not be there as often as I am. I have spoken about this in the past. I have become very conscious of being surrounded by alcohol advertising and alcohol itself and imagery of it, which is not something I was conscious of in the way I am now, as I bring children to matches and so on.

We need to do this work to ensure that future generations are protected, that they are socialised around alcohol in a respectful way, that in later years they understand what alcohol is about, and that their first interaction with alcohol is not about drunkenness but about people socialising and enjoying themselves. The principle is not about getting drunk but people interacting and socialising.

I have heard many contributions outside of this House. I will return to the matter of lobbying on this issue later. It has been argued that this legislation is a push towards bringing in legislation that would be akin to having a nanny state. It is anything but that. It is progressive, positive legislation. There are issues I seek to have dealt with in the Bill but in principle, it is good legislation. Our country must adapt to the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Ultimately it is a public safety issue.

We cannot abdicate responsibility and we need to deal with the issue. I mentioned social issues earlier. I have been very taken by radio advertisements I have heard recently, which feature a mother and father who cannot get out of bed on a Saturday morning, having previously promised their children that they would take them to the park. People have mentioned it to me. It is a true story that happens in every town and county in Ireland each weekend, whether it is Saturday or Sunday mornings. I dare say it probably happens often during the week too. It reflects the social impact of alcohol abuse on people.

As for the changes to be brought about by the Bill, I welcome the lead-in times for the various components. It is important in allowing the industry to adapt to the measures. I have a query about the HSE's role in giving evidence in the granting of renewal of licence or granting licences and would like the Minister of State to explain this in greater detail. Clearly it is about giving an opinion on whether a licence should be renewed but I would like more detail on the emphasis on this and why this has been chosen.

On labelling, this obviously is one of the most contentious issues and is one with which we must deal. There was considerable emphasis on it during the Seanad debate on the Bill. Undoubtedly, we will have to have health labelling and I welcome this, and the areas that it will cover. I will sound a word of caution, however, not merely regarding the size of labels, and so on. It will have a particular impact on the smaller producers such as craft brewers here and this should be borne in mind. As someone who is sponsoring other legislation to support them as a growing indigenous industry nationwide, it would not appropriate for me to speak without raising that. There is a big difference between the cost to a small craft brewer and to Diageo. Obviously, alcohol is alcohol and it does the same damage regardless of whoever produces it. Nevertheless, it is something that ought to be dealt with.

The Minister of State should work in parallel with our European colleagues on the pan-European progress that has been made, at European Council and European Parliament levels, on the approach to labelling and health warnings across alcohol products in the EU. I say this for genuine reasons. I was a Member of the European Parliament for two years. It was being discussed when I was there in 2009 and it is still being discussed. I am concerned that we need to do that in parallel with what is being done in this Bill because I am not sure whether this legislation will cut the mustard in terms of European law. We must undertake a process and there will be a pre-warning for six months. I want to make sure that one way or another, that labelling will be in place at a European level. Unfortunately, my reading of this measure leaves me unconvinced that it will go through as smoothly at a European level as some believe.

I include that as a word of caution in order to emphasise that there needs to be a parallel process at a European level to look at this.

I have been an advocate of minimum unit pricing for a long time. I have to say I have heard some amount of rubbish from some in the industry stating that this will change the price of certain products. The issue here is to deal with the cheap products that are causing damage all over the country - one can find the bottles and cans dispatched across parks and fields in both urban and rural locations around the country. I appreciate the examples that have been given by the Minister. I agree 100% with him on what is being proposed. Drinking in a controlled environment, as far as I am concerned, is the best option and the more we can change the manner in which people consume alcohol from an uncontrolled environment to a controlled environment, the better. It is the right way to go. If we have to move on this minimum unit pricing again after it is implemented in order to push it in that direction, I believe we should do so. Ultimately, the way in which alcohol is being consumed, because of the pricing differential, is a real issue.

I also note in the Bill the prohibition on changing the prices in a period of time, in other words, having happy hours and then resuming normal pricing. I ask the officials here to look positively at a further change to that, and it is to do with an element of competition here. I believe the Minister is correct in getting rid of happy hours and other forms of promotion, such as those that would allow two for one, but if one goes down to Temple Bar on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday, one will also encounter the practice where the price of a pint goes from, dare I say it, €6.20 to, an hour later, €7.20, and an hour later again it could be €8.20. As part of this process, I believe there is a way in which the price of a drink sold in a premises within 24 hours, or some defined period in legislation, cannot change. It is a way of dealing with what is obviously a competitive issue as well.

When it comes to advertising at sporting events and advertising in general, I very much welcome the changes that are being brought about. I have spoken previously about the impact of advertising at sporting events. I love sports and I played rugby for years. When I talk, it is still not the European champions cup. It is the Heineken Cup in my head and dare I say among most supporters who are in my case fanatical about Munster. That shows the impact it has. It becomes ingrained. Personally, I cannot stand Heineken. I would never drink it but that is not the issue. I still call it the Heineken Cup. Therefore I very much welcome the changes that are being brought about here. There is also a practical issue here in relation to local advertising. Whether it be the local pub, gastro-pub or whatever premises that sells alcohol, it needs to be facilitated and is so through this legislation.

In relation to the display issue which was so fraught in the Seanad, I believe the three options that have been brought about through much negotiation are good and deal with this issue. That was necessary and had to be brought about. I very much welcome them.

In relation to the advertising thresholds as regards broadcasting, I note the distinction between television and radio. I ask the Minister to respond as regards why that distinction is there, particularly in the case of radio. I understand the volume of times that children listen to radio or watch television has been agreed with broadcasters but there are also summer holidays and all such types of changes. I would welcome more information on that. I very much welcome the prohibition of advertisements in certain places, such as open spaces and public parks, but I question how it will be monitored to ensure it will work.

When it comes to selling alcohol from off-licences, a real issue which is worthy of further discussion is one of manner and scale - dare I say it is particularly young people but not confined to them. They can go into off-licences and buy huge volumes of alcohol. One will see them coming out with their three or four slabs of whatever. I probably do not favour us having a discussion about age limits here but I am open to a discussion on increasing the age limit or whether we must have a situation where persons of a certain age are only allowed purchase a certain amount of alcohol in an off-licence. Frankly, we all know what is happening. The 18 year old is going in, getting the slabs of alcohol and dishing them out to those who are under age. One can see it around the place. I believe that is an issue that needs to be looked at in some way in the future because it is happening in front of our eyes every day of the week.

I am not one of those who places much meas on large-scale lobbying but when it comes to this Bill, the volume of lobbying that has come across the desks of all of us has been considerable. I am the type of person who generally reacts the opposite way if I feel that a certain amount of the lobbying has been excessive and in this instance I believe that to be the case. Obviously, the drinks industry is such a large industry. It is an industry that employs many. As a Member who is bringing legislation through the Houses to support small brewers, I believe it is an industry that deserves support. However, it is also an industry that has to be responsible, that has to accept facts and that has to listen. I believe those are lessons that the industry would very much need to heed.

It is also an industry which needs to be assessed for its adherence to competition law and this is something that I will return to in this House. There are certain issues within the industry as to the way certain large-scale alcohol manufacturers, such as breweries, are behaving from the point of view of competition law that need to be brought out into the open and discussed more freely. It has a distorting effect when it comes to sales, when it comes to the capacity to advertise and, obviously, when it comes to their influence on consumers, in particular younger people, and by extension the volume of alcohol that is being consumed in our country. Certainly, there are lessons to be learned from that.

I very much welcome this Bill. I have spoken on elements of it previously, in the Joint Committee on Health and in other fora. There are a number of issues that I have raised on which I would appreciate a response from the Minister. I raised issues relating to labelling. Who is responsible for labelling when product is being sold and exported? Is it the retailer? Is it the wholesaler? When product is being imported, who is responsible for the labelling that will be put on products? I have asked specific questions and I would appreciate, in his own time, the Minister coming back to me.

Deputy Barry and his colleague, Deputy Boyd Barrett, have 20 minutes.

We will share that time.

We are debating this Bill because major public health issues surround alcohol in this country. Many people enjoy their alcohol, have a positive relationship with it and look on it as a positive in their lives but many people do not. I will read some facts into the record. There are 88 deaths every month in Ireland that are directly attributable to alcohol. One in four deaths of men aged 15 to 39 in Ireland is alcohol-related. Every day 1,500 beds in our hospitals are occupied by people with alcohol-related problems. This incurs a huge cost to both the individuals affected and to society. The annual cost to the health service of alcohol-related disease is €1.5 billion. The estimated cost to the State when non-health issues, such as driving offences, violence, domestic violence, mental health and child welfare issues, are added to this is €2.35 billion. In 2016 an estimated 300,000 working days were lost due to alcohol.

This is a modest Bill. The restrictions it would place on the alcohol industry are relatively mild compared with those that have been placed on the industry in other countries, including other European countries. However, in opposition to the Bill we have seen on the part of a multi-billion-euro industry a lobbying campaign of which there have not been many similar examples in recent years or even further back in time. University students of the future might well do theses on the lobbying campaign that was waged by big business in the form of the alcohol industry to take the teeth from this Bill and to have it watered down.

The Irish Times has published some fascinating information about this lobbying campaign which I will read into the record of the House. It refers to lobbying in the form of face-to-face meetings, receptions, letters, emails, contact through social media etc. from the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland, ABFI, the Vintners Federation of Ireland, Retail Excellence Ireland, RGDATA, the Convenience Stores & Newsagents Association, Heineken, the DAA, Slane Castle Irish Whiskey Limited and an organisation called Responsible Retailers of Alcohol in Ireland Limited. A colleague saw the latter name and wondered whether there had been a split and the other faction might be called irresponsible retailers of alcohol in Ireland limited. Incidentally, Responsible Retailers of Alcohol in Ireland Limited is chaired by a former IDA chief executive officer, Padraic White.

The article in The Irish Times indicates some of the lobbying that has gone on. On behalf of the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland, Ms Patricia Callan made six contacts with Ministers, five with Ministers of State, one with the Taoiseach's chief of staff, six with special advisers, two with assistant departmental secretaries, 15 with Deputies, 21 with Senators and one with an MEP. Also on behalf of ABFI, Mr. Jonathan McDade made five contacts with Senators. His colleague Lorraine Hall made seven contacts with Senators, three with special advisers and one with a Deputy. Mr. William Lavelle, a former special adviser at the Department of Justice and Equality, made one contact with a Minister, two with Ministers of State and two with Fine Gael Deputies. The director of the public relations firm Q4, former Fianna Fáil general secretary Martin Mackin, lobbied against the Bill. He contacted six Fianna Fáil Deputies, six Senators and one special adviser.

This is a major campaign. Let us consider the way in which it has operated. The following amendments were suggested to Senators by Responsible Retailers of Alcohol in Ireland Limited. The first amendment it suggested to section 20 of the Bill was, "In page 21, line 23, to delete 'one year' and substitute 'two years'". Lo and behold, an amendment was tabled in the name of Senator Swanick stating, "In page 21, line 23, to delete "one year" and substitute "two years"." The second amendment suggested by Responsible Retailers of Alcohol in Ireland, RRAI, read, "In page 21, lines 28 to 30, to delete all words from and including 'through' in line 28 down to and including line 30." Senator Swanick tabled an amendment stating, "In page 21, lines 28 to 30, to delete all words from and including "through" in line 28 down to and including line 30." The third amendment proposed by the RRAI read, "In page 22, to delete lines 17 and 18." Senator Swanick tabled an amendment stating, "In page 22, to delete lines 17 and 18." The fourth amendment proposed by the RRAI was, "In page 22, to delete lines 33 and 34 and substitute with the wording of what constitutes a stand-alone off licence in the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008". Senator Swanick tabled a very similar amendment. The RRAI recommended, in page 23, line 3, to delete "one year" and substitute "two years". Senator Swanick tabled an amendment stating, "In page 23, line 3, to delete “one year” and substitute “two years”." The sixth and last amendment suggested by the retailers was, in page 23, line 9, after "not", to insert the words "immediately adjoin a storage unit or storage units containing other beverages or food products". Senator Swanick, showing a bit of independence here, tabled an amendment stating "after “not” to insert [one word, namely] “immediately”", which is only slightly different. This was a cut-and-paste job on the part of a Fianna Fáil Senator as the Bill was being debated.

Senator Doctor, to be fair, is his title.

"Senator Doctor"?

That is even more interesting. In any case, I think what the alcohol industry has done here is to use the Seanad debate to water down the proposals concerning the separation of alcohol from other products in shops in order that it not be sold alongside the cornflakes. As we know, 37% of wine sales are impulse buys. The idea of separation was a very positive idea but the alcohol industry has watered it down very significantly and now it is moving on to the next stage in trying to gut this Bill, focusing its energies on the issue of the health warnings. We support the health warnings. It is a fact that every year in Ireland 900 people are diagnosed with, and 500 people die of, alcohol-related cancers. That is what the alcohol industry is trying to water down. Health warnings have been effective against smoking; they will be effective against alcohol abuse.

There are some issues around minimum unit pricing we might like to tease out on Committee Stage. There is a need to change the culture surrounding alcohol in this country. The health impact of alcohol is overwhelming. It can best be tackled by cultural change and increased awareness of the negative health effects of alcohol misuse. In general, we do not think that increasing prices on inelastic goods is the most effective way to reduce consumption and alcohol misuse. While we do not believe that increases in the price of alcohol or other drugs even such as tobacco is a way to resolve misuse, we are still without doubt very supportive of this Bill and will vote for it. However, we want to engage in some further debate on the issue of minimum pricing.

Time is kicking in, so I will be very quick to conclude. We think the proposals regarding advertising and children are positive but that in general they do not go far enough. There should not be links between sports and advertising; in fact, there should be a ban on alcohol advertising. I will restate my starting position. In this debate there are, on the one hand, the health professionals and, on the other, a multi-billion-euro industry, which wants to put its profits above the health of people.

This is progressive legislation. If anything, it does not go far enough. There are some issues with minimum pricing we want to debate at the next Stage, but our stance on the Bill is a very supportive one.

On behalf of People Before Profit, we are supportive of the overall aims of the Bill and pretty much all of the measures it proposes. There is no doubt about the health and societal implications of excessive use of alcohol. The World Health Organization states drinking alcohol is associated with risks of developing health problems such as mental and behavioural disorders, liver cirrhosis, some cancers, cardiovascular diseases and injuries resulting from violence and road crashes and collisions. A significant proportion of the disease burden attributable to alcohol consumption arises from unintentional and intentional injuries, including those due to road traffic crashes, violence and suicide, and fatal alcohol-related injuries tend to occur in relatively younger age groups.

In 2012, approximately 3.3 million deaths, or 5.9%, of all global deaths were attributable to alcohol consumption. Harmful alcohol use is the fifth leading cause of death and disability worldwide, up from being the eighth biggest cause in 1990, so the problem is getting worse. Every ten seconds somebody dies from a problem related to alcohol. Many more develop alcohol-related diseases. Here in Ireland there are three alcohol-related deaths every day. The public cost of alcohol is significant. In 2013, alcohol-related discharges accounted for 160,000 bed days in public hospitals. That is 3.6% of all bed days in that year, and it compares to 55,000 bed days, or 1.7%, of total number of bed days in 1995. There has been more than doubling of the number of alcohol-related discharges and bed days related to alcohol.

The cost to the taxpayer of alcohol-related discharges from hospital is €1.5 billion. That is equivalent to €1 in every €10 spent on public health in 2012. This excludes the costs of emergency cases, GP visits, psychiatric admissions and alcohol treatment services. An estimated 5,315 people on the live register in November 2013 lost their jobs due to alcohol use, and the estimated cost of alcohol-related absenteeism was €41 million in 2013. A separate review commissioned by the Department of Health found that alcohol-related illness costs the health care system €800 million in 2013.

It is right that we should take the issue extremely seriously and recognise it for the major global and national health problem it represents. The Government bringing forward this Bill indicates a desire to take it seriously. I cannot help but contrast the sensationalism around medicinal cannabis that we got from some of those expressing concerns about it, as against the failure to dramatise just how serious is the alcohol problem. This is something I said during the debate on medicinal cannabis because many of those who tried to cast concern about Deputy Gino Kenny's medicinal cannabis Bill did so on health grounds. Frankly, some of it was tantamount to scare tactics, when we compare what I have just described regarding what is known about alcohol with the fact that cannabis use does not cause cancer, no deaths are attributed to it, it does not produce diabetes or heart disease and it has many medicinal uses.

I would like to see some balance and proportionality in the debate on these issues, and a recognition that the advantages of medicinal cannabis significantly outweigh the dangers. This is not to say there are not some dangers with medicinal cannabis but, frankly, some of the debate on the Bill failed to put those things in proportion for somewhat opportunistic reasons in my opinion. That is just an aside. The more important thing is the health and societal implications of alcohol are very serious, as I have said, and the evidence is there to back it up. In this context, the measures the Bill proposes are positive.

I absolutely support the labelling of alcohol with health warnings. Advertising having to include health warnings is certainly a step forward, and the restrictions on advertising for alcohol are all steps forward, as are the restrictions on sponsorship and advertising on television and radio, but we should go much further. None of the alcohol companies tried to meet us, because we would tell them where to get off. We do not give a damn about the impact of any of these measures on the profits they might make because the health case is simply unanswerable, as is the societal case. It is a good thing to reduce alcohol use for all sorts of reasons and, therefore, we do not care about health measures impacting on the profits of these companies. We would like to see a complete ban on advertising and alcohol-related sponsorship.

The health dangers of alcohol are at the same level as those of cigarettes and it should be treated in the same way. There are many people who do not have an irresponsible relationship to alcohol. We are not setting out to penalise them but we need to not be worried about the profits of the multibillion euro industry. We do have questions on minimum unit pricing and concerns as to whether it will actually have the impact the Government believes it might. There is some relationship between price and consumption, but it is not clear to me in terms of health issues, binge issues and other spin-off societal issues, such as mental health issues, that introducing minimum pricing will significantly impact on them.

Critically, there is potentially a danger, as is the case with other intoxicants, that when things are banned they are driven underground into the black market and the consequences can potentially be worse. The evidence also shows that if people have a problem with alcohol, they will seek out the highest concentrations of alcohol where they can get them, and if they cannot get them by paying for them legally, they will get them elsewhere. I am not convinced, and obviously there are consequences for those who have a responsible relationship with alcohol, in terms of what alcohol products will be hit by the minimum pricing, particularly affecting people on lower incomes and the less well-off without necessarily having the health impacts the Government hopes for. We need to debate this issue more seriously.

If we want to address the problems associated with alcohol, what we need is a massive public education effort. Information about the health risks should be spread in schools, in communities and at every level. We need investment in some of the communities that are worst hit by the impacts of alcohol misuse, addiction and so on. That cultural shift, and investment in communities that are particularly badly hit by these things, are the most effective ways of dealing with the negative societal and health impacts of alcohol misuse.

Bogfaimid ar aghaidh anois go dtí an grúpa Independents 4 Change. I understand Deputy Joan Collins is sharing with her colleague.

Deputy Catherine Connolly.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I support the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015, though I did have initial reservations regarding the structural segregation of alcohol, particularly where smaller retail outlets are concerned. That has been addressed following the pressure applied by the retail industry.

I support the Bill as a public health initiative. Though the Bill will not solve the cultural love affair that we have with alcohol, it will have a positive impact in changing our drinking culture, particularly among young people. That is where our efforts must be addressed, because we are past intervention. We are not going to change the habits of older people who have grown used to drinking and made it a part of their culture. However, it may highlight the idea among parents that when they drink, they are setting an example for their children. That is an aspect of this issue that people have to deal with.

As Deputy Boyd Barrett said, we are going to have to do a lot more in the communities and I will outline one of the reasons. When I was younger, I played basketball and a lot of sports. The one thing young people all did afterwards was go for a drink. Prize-giving ceremonies, awards of medals and trophies etc., would all take place somewhere where there was drink. That still goes on among young men and women playing football, though probably not as much. It is not prevalent at the professional level but I refer to the community level. There will have to be an examination of alternatives that can be put in place for those communities. Where does one go after a football match? What activities does one participate in? Team sports are a great thing, because people make friends and bond with others. The bonds are made for life. I still have three good friends from my time playing sport. They live in Cork, Australia and elsewhere but we still keep in contact because of that sporting connection. That is a very important part of the community, particularly in working-class communities. That question is not really addressed here but it must be deeply examined. How do we fund a community to provide alternatives for younger people as to where to go afterwards and where to socialise?

I can only work from my own life experience. When I was 12 or 13 years old, my father did not have a very big drinks cabinet, as he could not afford it. This was the early 1970s. However, because of the culture around drink, the peer pressure that takes effect, my friends and I would go to the cabinet and take a bit of whiskey. We would put a bit of water into the bottle so my father would not notice. He would have noticed when half the bottle's contents were gone but he would not have noticed it initially. That is what my generation did when we were younger. The supermarkets did not have huge displays of alcohol. There were no off-licences in the early 1970s. However, drinking was still a part of the culture for young people growing up. Nowadays there is a huge amount of advertising and lots of drink is in kids' faces as they walk in the door of the shop. I think that segregation can play a role in mitigating that.

I am a public representative on the Canal Communities Local Drugs and Alcohol Task Force. I participated in many initiatives undertaken by the task force in the local community to try to highlight the issues around alcohol. We promote responsible drinking, encouraging people to enjoy it but not to depend on it. There has been a lot of debate about avoiding a nanny state that dictates what people can and cannot do. However, I think public policy can play a very positive role in explaining the health implications of alcohol. The task force must be given more direction on what to do in the alcohol aspect of its work. It must do more work and that effort should come from the task force itself, with help from the Department of Health. It must be funded for this, which is not the case at present. The task force does a lot of its work without additional resources, and this must be examined.

Three people a day die from alcohol-related illness and disease. We know the impact on families of a lot of alcohol in the family home and of having alcoholics in the home. I have a friend whose partner has a liver disease and is still drinking. He just has not got the ability to stop. It causes friction. The couple cannot go out socially and have one or two drinks as it always leads to more drink and chaos at the end of the night. This man collapses regularly and is constantly in and out of hospital. This is replicated all over the country. People like this are not isolated cases. They are in every street in Dublin, Cork and Kerry and so on.

We know that 1,500 hospital beds are tied up in treating people with alcohol-related problems, such as cancer, liver failure, stroke, accidents suffered at home or accidents that occur in the street when coming out of pubs and nightclubs. How many times have we seen people in an accident and emergency department after a drinking session leading to an accident? I have probably been there myself. The sobering thought one has afterwards is that one has taken up the valuable time of medics, health nurses and doctors because of drunkenness. It is madness.

Donal Buggy of the Irish Cancer Society reported that in Ireland in 2013, 12% of breast cancers were caused by alcohol. That equates to 353 a year. Every year there are 500 related cancer deaths. Liver disease has tripled within the 15 to 34 year old age group, particularly among men in their 20s. It is crazy. Those people put their lives at risk by drinking alcohol excessively. It must be excessive unless they already have a weakness in their liver.

Alcohol costs the health service €3.7 billion a year. The Road Safety Authority reports that 29% of fatal collisions involve drivers and motorcyclists who have consumed alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant and has contributed to 50% of all suicides. We have the fourth-highest rate of youth suicide in the EU. Alcohol is a killer.

If one considers the lobbying industry, I note the drinks industry lobbied Fianna Fáil Deputies to say the restrictions in this Bill were so strict that they would prevent the Christmas Guinness advertisements from being aired next year. That is true, but there is no harm in that. I remember that Guinness has used very professional advertisement agencies and sometimes created brilliant advertising. The one from the 1990 World Cup, featuring a man dancing to music around a barrel, always sticks with me. The advertisements are so good that the memory sticks with me 30 years later. That is how profoundly they can eat into one's psyche.

Producers, advertisers and sellers of alcohol want us to drink more and we as a nation need to drink less. That is why the lobbying industry puts so much money into lobbying Deputies, Senators, councillors, Ministers etc. in this Parliament. In an Alcohol Health Alliance opinion poll of members of the public, 92% of respondents agreed that alcohol consumption is too high; 78% were concerned about children's exposure to alcohol; 74% supported Government intervention to reduce alcohol consumption and protect people from alcohol-related harm; and 82% support Government action to curb alcohol marketing that appeals to young people.

Having said that, I will read a quotation from a journalist who recently published a piece on lobbying stating:

Drinks industry representatives extensively lobbied Government Ministers, TDs and Senators about controversial legislation to deal with Ireland's alcohol crisis, according to the latest figures from the lobbying register. It is estimated the drinks sector, led by Ibec's umbrella group the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland ... had meetings with 14 Government Ministers and Ministers of State and 10 special advisers about the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill.

The director of the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland, ABFI, Ms Callan, lobbied six Cabinet Ministers, five Ministers of State, the Taoiseach's chief of staff, Brian Murphy, six special advisers, assistant secretaries in the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, 15 Deputies, 21 Senators, Fine Gael MEP Seán Kelly and three councillors. That was her role in lobbying. All lobbyists had to list their contacts for the final three months of 2017 by 20 January last. The State register obliges lobbyists to list who they had contact with but not whether it was a meeting, telephone call, email or other informal contact. Contacts also include lobbying five Senators and a Dublin city councillor by the ABFI's Jonathan McDade, while a former special adviser at the former Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Lorraine Hall, lobbied seven Senators, three special advisers and Deputy Joe Carey from Clare on behalf of ABFI. A former special adviser at the Department of Justice and Equality, William Lavelle, lobbied the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, two Ministers of State and Deputies Colm Brophy and Tony McLoughlin for ABFI. The public relations firm Q4's director, former Fianna Fáil general secretary and Senator, Martin Macken, and Ms Hall of ABFI lobbied six Fianna Fáil Deputies, four Senators and Stephen Lynam, special adviser to the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe.

In an interview with The Irish Times, Ms Callan said she wanted the drinks industry to be allowed into the policy-making tent. She said, "What's really unusual in this job is that, sometimes, people don't want to talk to you at all. But this is a booming sector, which supports over 200,000 jobs." Countering that, Alcohol Action Ireland said that IBEC and the ABFI had "never really been outside the tent". That is very true.

I support the Bill. This is an opportunity to see how lobbying works in this country from the point of view of big industries and big money. The alcohol industry wishes to sell more drink but, as a nation, we must drink less. That is what we must try to do.

At the risk of being politically incorrect tá cathú mór orm deoch a bheith agam tar éis na díospóireachta seo. Ba mhaith liom é sin a chur i gcomhthéacs. I am tempted to say I am looking forward to a drink after this debate and long day. There is nothing wrong with taking a drink. What we are discussing here is the abuse of drink. It is important to put the matter in perspective. For the first time, we are addressing alcohol as a public matter. I welcome that very much, given that the abuse of alcohol is responsible for approximately - I hate that word when talking about deaths - 90 deaths per month in this country and the accident and emergency departments are overwhelmed with drink-related problems and illnesses, not to mention the inter-generational effects of alcohol such as violence, assault and domestic violence. There are also the economic costs. In 2004, and the price has increased since then, the CEO of the Health Research Board provided figures on the economic costs. At that time it was €2.39 billion in combined health and crime-related costs and €527 million in lost economic output.

The Minister clarified that the overall purpose of the Bill is to contribute to the reduction of the harmful use of alcohol or the harmful result of the abuse of alcohol. Indeed, the steering group gave a target of reducing alcohol consumption to 9.1 litres per capita, representing a 23% reduction over the 2010 figures. I welcome what is being attempted in the Bill, although I will return to the reservations I harbour. I welcome that the Bill targets some specific areas. I have no difficulty with that. One is price, although I have a guarded opinion on the minimum price and whether it will achieve what is hoped. However, I give it a guarded welcome. The other areas are availability and marketing. I welcome without hesitation the action on advertising, which does not go far enough but I will return to that, and the labelling.

As many speakers have said, the minimum price seeks to target cheap alcohol consumed by those most at risk. We can estimate the value to society of introducing that if we extrapolate from the Sheffield research. I do that with a caveat because it is difficult to extrapolate and also because there will be no increase in the minimum price until after a three-year period. It is not clear if it will be linked to the consumer price index or adjusted for inflation. However, the estimated saving is €1.7 billion. These are important matters to be considered. I welcome the ban on advertising near schools and in parks, playgrounds and public transport, as well as the prohibition of price-based promotions. In particular, I welcome the ban on advertising on children's clothing. I also welcome section 21, which gives the Minister the power to restrict the sale and supply of alcohol products.

I have a difficulty with where we are going in respect of alcohol and the serious nature of that issue in our country. There is a certain hypocrisy, not on the part of the Minister but on all our parts. As I said, half in jest but also seriously, I will enjoy a drink tonight. There is a certain amount of hypocrisy in the way we talk about alcohol and how to deal with it, while not acknowledging that we have failed utterly to treat the reasons people drink in the first place. I do not expect the Minister to capture all of that in one legislative measure. However, people drink for many reasons and we are not tackling those reasons. We do not lead by example when we celebrate. When the former President of the United States visited Ireland, we all delighted in the fact that he was seen drinking a pint of Guinness. When we go out, it is difficult to get a cup of tea at regular functions. It is much easier to get wine and so forth.

The legislation utterly ignores off-licences, which are allowed to be as attractive as possible. What captured the difficulty for me was the attempt in the Bill, particularly before it was amended in the Seanad, to have physical barriers erected in shops, as if that was the problem. It is as if someone going into the SuperValu near my home - although it has changed its name now - and seeing drink would be encouraged to buy it. I do not accept the logic that somebody will buy drink just because it is near the butter and that it must be segregated, while yards down the road there is an off-licence with a sign offering two bottles of Buckfast Tonic Wine for €20. Initially, requiring a physical barrier to be erected in small shops in rural areas was simply unacceptable. It fails to deal with the problem of alcohol abuse. It was targeting an outlet that was not responsible for the alcohol abuse and not targeting those responsible for it.

I am very familiar with the legislation that has been brought forward repeatedly over the years but never implemented. It is an offence for a publican to serve somebody who is intoxicated. It is an offence to drink on the streets of Galway. We introduced by-laws prohibiting drinking on the streets in Galway. Immediately, however, we had to make exceptions because it is a city of culture, of which I am proud, a bilingual city and a city of festivals. The pressure groups said that we had to allow drinking on the streets, so now we have by-laws that mean nothing. The gardaí told us they could not enforce the law because they did not have the authority to confiscate and destroy. We introduced by-laws to allow gardaí to confiscate and destroy the drink, but then exceptions were introduced. There was also a lack of gardaí on the ground. One can see the level of hypocrisy and duplicity here. It is okay to drink to excess during a racing festival. We could not possibly stop people in Galway drinking in the streets during the races, yet we will tell young people not to drink. I have a difficulty with the hypocrisy of how we do that at a societal level. I am glad that changes have been made with regard to the physical barriers. Otherwise, I certainly would not have voted for the legislation, even though it contains many good sections.

Tomorrow, the Committee of Public Accounts will discuss the Dormant Account Fund. A substantial amount of the Dormant Account Fund has not been used. Imagine that happening with a fund established to deal with disadvantaged areas and to help people with education. These are specific points, but it is completely underused.

We will be examining the reasons for that tomorrow. No review has been carried out in that regard. Those funds should have been used for young people and targeted at those in need, both areas which are underfunded. We do not have enough community centres or alternatives for our young people.

If we are serious about dealing with alcohol, it is not by banning it, putting up physical barriers or going back to the days of prohibition in America that this will be done but, rather, by beginning to grow up as a society. Alcohol is not bad in moderation. The abuse of alcohol is a very significant problem in our society that we have condoned on every single level. Young people are far too clever for us and they see our hypocrisy. When I go home and talk to my sons and their friends, I will be met with that hypocrisy and they will go to a pub and drink shots. The level of over-drinking is astounding and we must deal with it.

I am glad to have the opportunity to speak on the Bill. Although some of its measures are important, it goes a step too far. I support the proposal to bring in a minimum pricing per gram of alcohol. It is far too easy to get huge amounts of alcohol below cost price, which is causing huge damage to the pub trade.

Is the Deputy sharing time?

I am sharing time with Deputy Mattie McGrath.

The Bill places huge and unnecessary restrictions on alcohol advertising and sponsorship. The proposals set limits on how alcohol may be portrayed in advertisements. However, it could be detrimental to the sponsorship of events such as the Guinness Pro14 by alcohol companies. Where are we going with this? Why are we in here week after week condemning the drinks industry and debating Bills on road traffic and alcohol? Are we going to turn an event such as the Heineken Cup into the Ribena Cup or the "White Lemonade" Cup? Will the Bulmers Comedy Festival have to be renamed the "Still Water" Festival because we cannot talk about alcohol anymore? Such events that have drawn tens of thousands of people to Ireland and created huge revenue for the State could now be in jeopardy.

The provision of the Bill with which I most disagree provides for the strict labelling of alcohol bottles and cans and will lead to the separation of alcohol products within retail outlets. It will be an unnecessary cost for retailers. Where are we going to stop? We are treating the Irish people like fools, as if they will see a drink advertisement and then run and buy that drink. Most people can make up their own minds. Excessive drinking will always be a problem, which is regrettable, but the Bill goes too far.

Before I was elected to the House, I was involved in a community and voluntary forum and, through that, was on a joint policing committee. One will always try to stop young children drinking alcohol. I have three young children and I would not like them to drink to excess. I brought forward a proposal at the joint policing committee on the labelling of alcohol bought in off-licences. Often, an 18, 19 or 20 year old buys the alcohol but a 13 or 14 year old consumes it and is then drunk on the street afterwards. The proposal I put forward - to which nobody wanted to listen at the time - was that the bottle or can would be labelled such that the purchaser could be identified, there could be a comeback in respect of that person and we would find out to whom the alcohol was given. In my town of Schull, Tidy Towns groups go out during the summer collecting bottles and cans on the mornings after young people having been ferociously drunk with no control over them. The Bill is looking at advertising instead of going into the detail of trying to sort this out.

On labelling and cancer warnings, I cannot understand where we are going. Most products we eat could contribute to cancer in some way. Should we label cans of Coca-Cola, sweets or chocolates because they could cause cancer or may be dangerous? It is important to note that no other country has introduced mandatory cancer warnings on alcohol products. My fear is that the introduction of cancer warnings on Irish products would lead to a stigma regarding those products and give a clear advantage to foreign competitors not required to use such labels such as, for example, producers of Scotch whisky. That would have a very damaging impact on small distilleries and breweries that are bringing new products to the market. It is also worth considering whether introducing labels warning about the dangers of cancer would solve the problem of harmful or underage drinking and balancing that against the harm it would do to indigenous Irish industry. It would, perhaps, be more beneficial for the Department of Education and Skills to roll out an effective education campaign to inform people about recommended drinking guidelines rather than put a cancer warning that is unlikely to work on a bottle. The Bill does not appear to provide for an exemption for products sold at airports. That needs to be reconsidered.

While I have many worries about the Bill and take issue with many of its provisions, some parts are to be recommended. In recent months, the Government has been attacking the drinks trade in any way it can, which will lead to tens of thousands of job losses across the country. Why does the House not spend time talking about drugs and the prevention of their importation? The issue of drugs has not been raised in the House. Why are we afraid to mention it? It is a far more serious issue than alcohol in this country and we are avoiding it.

Drugs are not legal.

It is not a more serious issue.

It is more serious.

Drugs are not legal.

If Deputy Shortall had her feet on the ground she would know that it is more serious. She will have her time to speak on the Bill and so will the Minister but this is my time.

What Deputy Michael Collins said is factually incorrect.

Drugs are a very serious issue that is being ignored in the House and should be discussed in more detail.

Perhaps we should lay off the drinks industry and see if we can create a few jobs and try to keep rural Ireland and communities alive. I would like time to be spent on seeing how we can help businesses such as hotels and pubs to survive. Earlier today, the Rural Independent Group met a number of people to discuss insurance costs. One gentleman said his insurance has risen from €80,000 to €230,000. No Member deals with the matter of insurance. It was discussed in the House approximately one year ago and was then put back into the box and parked. The Minister looks very bemused but the bottom line is we have not-----

I am the Minister for Health. I do not deal with insurance.

I acknowledge that, but the Minister is a member of the Cabinet-----

There should be collective responsibility.

------and he should sit down at the Cabinet table and tell his fellow Ministers to stop attacking those who are selling drink and those who are trying to provide jobs in this country and, rather, see if we can do something to turn it around. A person whose insurance has increased from €80,000 to €230,000 cannot be expected to survive in business. The insurance costs for the business of a person in west Cork went from €11,000 to €25,000 without any claim having been put in. That is another connection to what we are discussing. It is leading to many businesses closing down and the silence from the Government on how to control the insurance industry is deafening. These are the type of measures that need to be tackled as well as, perhaps, some of the issues in the Bill.

If the Government is genuine in its intention to tackle alcohol issues, it should do what I have been calling for since I was elected to the House and shut the Dáil bar. There is no mention of that in the House. We discuss road traffic and alcohol Bills while there are two bars in the Oireachtas. What kind of message does that send to the people of this country? What are we doing? This is supposed to be our place of work. We do not need bars in the Oireachtas. If the Government is serious about tackling alcohol, it should start at home, which, for Members, is the Oireachtas. It should bring forward legislation to close the Dáil bars. People who get up at 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. and work hard all day do not have any alcohol to drink or the opportunity to drink it and are now afraid to call in for a pint on the way home because the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2017 finished that practice. If the Government wishes to continue attacking the drinks industry, it should start by closing the Dáil bars. That would be an honest way to start tackling issues relating to alcohol. The Government should lead by example.

On visitor centres, the Bill does not contain any exemptions for Irish whiskey distillers' visitors centres. This means that advertisements for whiskey distillery visitor centres that contain the name of the brand will be severely constrained. For example, such advertisements will be prohibited in train stations, at bus stops and within 200 m of schools and crèches. Visitor centre advertisements will not be able to contain images of people or use storylines.

I ask the Minister to give special consideration to the impact of these measures on visitor centres. I visited such a centre recently at Clonakilty Distillery. This owner of the distillery is selling his product all over the world. He is trying to get the business off the ground and is doing so successfully. The visitor centre in Clonakilty is a high-rise building and the owner took me up to the top floor. He is going to bring in people from all over the world to visit this centre. The man's thoughts on this Bill are that if a crèche or a playschool were to open within the viewing vicinity of that building, then his business would be in serious trouble. He would either have to block the windows or cover up whatever advert he might have up on them. This is crazy. I do not know where we are going with this. It is making matters a lot more difficult with. There are lots of ways of going about things, but this Bill not the way to proceed.

Everybody supports the objective behind the Bill, namely, to tackle harmful and underage drinking. However, extreme legislation is not always good legislation. I ask that the Minister consider the points I have raised and engage with the industry before Committee Stage in order to see what small changes can be made to address the concerns I have highlighted. Nobody is interested in scuppering the legislation - and they should not be - because there are many good aspects to it. I accept that. It is, however, about making sensible changes in order to strike a balance. I am afraid we are heading down a road similar to that relating to poitín whereby we will not be able to take a drink, advertise a drink or show a drink to anybody. The Minister will have to consider changes to the legislation before it would get full support here.

I am glad to be able to speak on this important legislation. For some time, the Bill has been going to and fro and there has been much lobbying in respect of it. I have been here for ten years and many other items of legislation have come before the House. Much of the legislation in question, while very well-meaning, has never been enacted. Members debate the legislation in detail on the various Stages, it goes to committee and then on to the Seanad but it ends up not being enacted. Let us consider crime, which is a hugely serious issue. People who have carried out multiple offences are out on bail. They get free legal aid that is paid for by ordinary taxpayers and workers. We passed legislation to provide for tagging and, to my horror, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, told us this week that it has been referred to a working group. This is foot-dragging and it flies in the face of the aim of dealing with issues holistically.

With regard to the drinks industry, I do not agree with my colleague about the Dáil bar. I like to bring visitors and others to the bar in the evenings. The Dáil bar also provides employment. The Deputy spoke about jobs and that we have to look at it holistically, but sin scéal eile.

I am of the view that the proliferation of some types of off-licences has caused a great deal of trouble. Some off-licences that are dedicated to that type of business are run quite well but too many small shops now also have off-licence sales. I listened with interest to Deputy Connolly, as I always do. She said that it is not because a person sees a drink that they want to buy it. However, I am of the view that some investigation is needed in that regard. I feel sorry for the person who is a recovering alcoholic. He or she may go into a small shop to get a loaf of bread, a pound of butter and some milk and is then faced with alcohol right in front of him or her. This person can choose to not go to a pub or a hotel but must go to the shop or the filling station for food or diesel. There is too much of this type of availability.

I also did not agree with the proposals for the Long Kesh-type shutters. That is another draconian measure - it is madness. Who drafted this legislation for the Minister? From where did he get it? I mean no disrespect to the officials in the Chamber but I would love to know who they are. I would love to get into that drafting office some day, sit down for an hour and listen to the comments at teatime. To me, it appears that they look at bizarre ways of dealing with problems. I am sure the drafting office staff must be very disappointed also. I am not sure what the plural is but, with respect, I will call them drafters and hope the wind does not get too strong. I wonder if they get frustrated when Bills are drafted, changed and passed on all Stages and are then either not implemented or the process of implementation is too slow. We must look at this issue.

We keep talking in this House. It is a talking shop and there are many areas affected. When I started here I wanted a capping or can tax. I asked the then Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan, God rest him, for such a tax to be imposed in respect of off-licence sales. The publicans and the Vintners Federation of Ireland had lobbied me, and rightly so. I had no problem with that because I use a lot of pubs for hosting my clinics and I understood that they all paid rates, staff wages, ESB bills, VAT, insurance and so on. They sponsor everything that goes on in a parish. They are the first people whose doors are knocked on by people seeking sponsorship, so we must give back something to them. They are small family businesses and they are trying to survive. It is not easy. An uneven playing field has arisen over the past 20 years. One can now buy 20 cans or 20 bottles of alcohol for €20 or less. A cap or can tax would have brought in almost €1 billion in revenue when the State needed it badly in 2009, 2010 and 2011. When the previous Government led by the Minister's party came to power in 2011, I lobbied it also. Promises were made. Deputy Burton, who was a member of the Cabinet at the time, actually told me that the tax was going to be introduced in 2012 budget or that for 2013. It was not brought in. The next day I asked her what had happened, as she had been full sure. Deputy Burton said that the supermarket lobby was more powerful than the Vintners Federation of Ireland. That is a fact.

We have been raped and plundered up and down the country, in farming and every other industry, big business. We have all the big co-ops and big industries in now. Nothing saddens me more when at home in Tipperary when I see Tesco vans driving up and down the boreens and lanes day and night. We are so short-sighted. It is fine if a person has no other way of getting his or her shopping and has to do it online. However, if we then need a local shop in order to buy bread or milk, we will not have anything like that when it is gone. Cad a dhéanfaimid feasta gan adhmad? The shops will all be gone. Big businesses are a scourge in this country. While we need and support foreign direct investment, we have to impose controls on them. They have too much power. They have an in with the Minister and his colleagues.

It is the same with the pharmaceutical companies. Nobody is commenting on the problem with prescription drugs. It is a massive issue. I have noted down the two Ds; drink and drugs. These are the lethal cocktails at home. Wine is so cheap and so available. These are the big industries and they have us in their pockets. I do not say this lightly. It is my honest and firm belief after ten years in the House. They are controlling everything and they are powerful and to hell with ordinary people and workers who are looking to buy homes and get on property ladder. The big people can do what they like. Ireland is a banana republic from that point of view because the State will not put any manners on any of the companies in question. Those with the responsibility in this regard just kowtow to money and everything else. It is disgusting. I would say that it is quite corrupt in this House with big business.

There is another issue regarding the pharmaceutical industry. We have had families in recently about it. The Minister said that he does not have responsibility for insurance. I prompted him and said there is such a thing as Cabinet collective responsibility. I am sure the Minister read the handbook when he was appointed and he should know by now that he has a responsibility. Several hundred families in the State have issues and concerns in respect of the HPV vaccine and when they came out an lobbied on the issues, they were threatened by a man the Minister should have sacked, Mr. Tony O'Brien. They were called "emotional terrorists."

He was entirely correct.

That is disgraceful coming from the Minister. The emotional terrorism is coming from the Minister and from Mr. O'Brien, with people on trolleys in hospitals surrounded by lights and noise and vending machines. If it was a war then the Minister would be charged with war crimes. How dare he? The Minister is worse than Mr. O'Brien by saying "He was entirely correct". The Minister is his puppet. That is what the Minister is, and a puppet for many more people in big industries too. Mr. O'Brien was not correct. He was disgraceful. He should have been sacked or at least reprimanded to say that to the families with very sick children. I met some of the parents recently. They have sick children and no evidence to prove it. They are entitled to lobby on their concerns. He termed it "emotional terrorism", but it is too cosy. The real emotional terrorism is happening in hospitals day in and day out. People are waiting for ten or 12 hours. People are going to hospitals reasonably healthy, getting MRSA and going home in coffins. That is emotional terrorism. The Minister stands over it and he is a puppet for Mr. O'Brien. The Minister backs him up and says that. It is disgraceful. I am so incensed that he would say that.

I am not accepting Deputy Mattie McGrath making allegations like that against-----

They are not allegations. He said they were calling-----

No. It is not what the Minister said, it was what the Deputy said. I am not permitting-----

But you said, I said, he said, she said-----

I am saying on the record of the House that-----

I am not being smart with you, I am continuing-----

You are interrupting my time now.

Well you are interrupting my time. The Minister said-----

Deputy Mattie McGrath is not permitted to call a member of the Government a puppet or say he is in somebody's pocket.

He is only short of it.

Fine. If the cap fits, wear it.

Will the Deputy please go back to the subject under discussion?

The Minister said a while ago that he had no interest or business in insurance. The businesses we met today have had their insurance increase threefold, fourfold and fivefold.

It is outrageous. This is happening because of the lawyers, the courts, the whole system, the merry-go-round, the fat cats and the claims they give out. If a person in England breaks his or her finger, there is a set fee for it. Why do people here get tens of thousands of euro in the same circumstances? Those involved in the murky business of the Four Courts and all the courts are getting what they want through the litigation process. Solicitors are allowed to advertise on a "no foal, no fee" basis. There was no such thing as "no foal, no fee" advertising 20 years ago, but it has crept in now. By allowing people to milk the system, we are putting all the costs on the backs of ordinary families and, especially, small business people. The big barriers in shops that were proposed by the Government in this legislation were like a jail. Small shopkeepers would have incurred significant costs. Tesco and all the big conglomerates could afford to put up these barriers. They are able to engage in below-cost selling and all this other stuff that ordinary shopkeepers cannot do. I am nearly out of time. I am appalled to think that the Minister would say Mr. O'Brien was right to say that parents were committing emotional terrorism.

He did not say that.

The emotional terrorism is happening on the Minister's watch every day in our hospitals. People cannot sleep because they are on trolleys beside vending machines and there are people walking up and down in the middle of the night. If this were happening in a war, the Government would be brought to the Hague for war crimes on the basis of depriving people of their sleep. They are not getting care in the hospitals. The Minister can smile all he likes. He is more interested in telling the members of the National Association of General Practitioners, without even consulting them, that they will have to be on the front line in providing abortion services here. I repeat that as far as I am concerned, the Minister is a puppet and a damn good one.

I warmly welcome the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015, which has finally arrived in this Chamber exactly six years after the steering group's report on the national substance misuse strategy was published in February 2012. Some of us here remember that very well. Since then, every effort imaginable has been used by the alcohol industry to stymie, misrepresent, confuse, delay and kill off this strategy. Even before the strategy was published, the representatives of the alcohol industry who sat on the steering group did everything in their power to hold up its work, water down its proposals and delay the finalisation of the strategy. They ultimately issued their own minority report.

During the early stages of this process in 2012, I had responsibility for the substance misuse strategy in my role as Minister of State in the Department of Health, a position I held for a short period. At that time, departmental officials enthusiastically got to work on drafting legislation to give effect to the proposals in the strategy. When I consulted members of the Cabinet, it quickly became obvious to me that the alcohol industry had continued on its lobbying spree. It was particularly successful in targeting three particular Ministers. I refer to the Ministers for Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Transport, Tourism and Sport; and Justice and Equality at the time. For this reason, the Cabinet became particularly unenthusiastic about making progress with this legislation. The subsequent appointment to the Department of Health of the then Minister, Deputy Varadkar, convinced him of the importance of these measures and he progressed the Bill at that stage. However, the heavy lobbying continued apace. We know that 156 different instances of lobbying in respect of this legislation have taken place since late 2015. The lobbying register shows that officials have been extremely active in this area in respect of the legislation.

We also know that apart from the long list of Members of the Oireachtas who have been lobbied, as Deputy Collins referred to, many of the lobbyists themselves are ex-Fianna Fáil advisers and staffers who worked with various Ministers. It seemed for a period of time in recent years that there was seamless movement back and forth between the alcohol industry and the staff of Fianna Fáil. For example, one of the lobbyists with the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland, ABFI, which is the most active group that is lobbying on behalf of the alcohol industry, was Ross Mac Mathúna, who is a former special adviser to the Tánaiste, Deputy Coveney. Lorraine Hall, who previously worked as a special adviser to the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, has also been lobbying in this area. We also know that Ciaran Conlon, who is a former special adviser to the Minister, Deputy Bruton, and a Fine Gael official, has lobbied on the Bill on behalf of Responsible Retailing of Alcohol in Ireland.

A former Fine Gael Deputy, Dr. Liam Twomey, is now serving as the medical director of DrinkAware, which is a so-called "responsible drinking initiative" that is funded by alcohol companies and large retailers. We also know that Imelda Henry, who was a Fine Gael Senator until quite recently, has been lobbying on behalf of the Vintners Federation of Ireland. I am concerned about the existence of this close relationship, to which I attribute the success of the alcohol industry in slowing down the passage of this legislation. It is entirely inappropriate that there should be such easy movement of staff back and forth between the lobbying wing of IBEC and ABFI and the Fine Gael Party. I do not think it is appropriate. I suggest there should be a significant cooling-off period after somebody has completed a period as a lobbyist or a period as an adviser to a Minister. There are clear conflicts of interest in this respect. The lobbyists have been very successful in holding this up.

It is highly regrettable that as a result of much of this lobbying, it was decided to ignore the area of alcohol sponsorship, especially regarding sport and music. The promotion of alcohol takes many forms. As we know, sports sponsorship is a significant component of this. While representatives of the three main participation sports in Ireland were reluctant to divulge all the information on how much money they receive as sponsorship from the alcohol industry, two years ago the indications were that these sports gain somewhere between €10 million and €20 million in funding each year from this source. The figures for some of the sports may be higher at this stage. I welcome the fact that the GAA has been consistently reducing its dependence on alcohol sponsorship. The other sports could take a leaf out of its book.

The dependence on alcohol sponsorship is heavier for soccer and rugby, particularly rugby, than it is for the GAA. Alcohol funding is now a relatively minor element of GAA sponsorship and is continuing to decline. We have to keep reminding ourselves that alcohol sponsorship is not done for philanthropic reasons. There is a sense that this is a kind of fuzzy, nice, good-willed philanthropic approach. It is clear that there is substantial commercial gain for the drinks industry if it is willing to spend large amounts of money on the promotion of its products. I ask the Minister to consider revisiting this aspect of the matter at some point. While it would be ideal if it were revisited in the Bill before the House, I am conscious that we need to get it through as quickly as possible. We cannot ignore sports sponsorship, which is the elephant in the room.

I would like to refer to important analysis that has been conducted by Professor Gerard Hastings into sponsorship of sports and music events by the alcohol industry in the UK. Internal industry documentation was sourced as part of an investigation into the conduct of the UK alcohol industry by the health select committee of the House of Commons. Professor Hastings's analysis, which is entitled "They’ll drink bucket loads of the stuff", highlights the deliberate use of sports and music sponsorship to recruit young drinkers, particularly young male drinkers. It refers to an internal document from Carling which concludes that the point of Carling's sponsorship of these events is "to build the image of the brand and recruit young male drinkers". The Carling document also points to the attractiveness of being able to "piggy back" on the heroes of young people. It concludes, "They [young people] think about 4 things, we brew 1 and sponsor 2 of them". Having read this evidence, it would be impossible to conclude anything other than that the promotion of alcohol, including sports sponsorship, leads to earlier initiation of drinking, higher levels of consumption and greater health risks than would be the case in the absence of such promotion.

We have a serious problem with alcohol in Ireland. We have a very unhealthy relationship with it. We have allowed it to permeate many aspects of our culture. In many ways, we have allowed it to define us as a people. By any standards, we drink too much. We drink approximately 25% more than the OECD average. That equates to approximately 130 bottles of wine, 46 bottles of vodka or 500 pints per person per year. When one considers that many people do not drink at all or drink very little, that means the rest of us drink to excess.

The volume of alcohol which we consume is actually increasing, in spite of what the industry is saying. In 2016 our consumption rose by 4.8% according to Revenue statistics. While we like to think of ourselves as fun loving, the reality is that we pay a very heavy price for our love affair with alcohol. The estimated cost of alcohol-related illness and harm is €2.35 billion. Every night, as we know, 1,500 hospital beds are occupied by people with alcohol-related illnesses. That has to be taken into consideration in the context of the demands for increased numbers of hospital beds. There are other, more creative and effective ways of dealing with this. The abuse of alcohol is the big culprit.

Alcohol is a contributory factor in depression and other mental health conditions and is implicated in half of all suicides. Nearly 300,000 work days are lost due to alcohol and it is a significant factor in reduced productivity and competitiveness. Alcohol is also a factor in violent crime, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, marriage breakdown and child neglect and obesity; it costs us very dearly as a society. Alcohol takes a particularly heavy toll on children, both because of their parents' harmful drinking and also their own early initiation into drinking, often at binge drinking levels - activity which is harmful to their physical, emotional, mental and social development. As adults, we often like to tut tut at the problem of youth drinking, but is it any wonder that they engage in this when we as adults set them such bad example? Many of us find it difficult to celebrate, have fun, enjoy ourselves or relax without the assistance of alcohol. We really do need to re-evaluate our relationship with alcohol and take steps to modify our behaviours around it.

We all have personal responsibility regarding our health and our behaviour. However, the prominence of alcohol all around us, its heavy promotion, its close association with some of the great things in life like sport and music and the unrelenting marketing and cost-cutting of alcohol all conspire to put it at the centre of our society in a way that makes changing our habits very difficult. That is why the problem must be tackled on several fronts: price, advertising, labelling, promotion and other areas.

On minimum unit pricing, we know that there is a direct correlation between price and problem drinking. Over the past decade, we have seen a cultural shift in people’s drinking habits. Increasingly, people are drinking at home and then going to the pub or club. Sometimes, after a session at home they continue drinking in the club. There is also the phenomenon of more people just drinking at home, stocking up in the supermarket and generally always having alcohol around the home. I do exactly the same thing myself. It is not that long ago that it was just for a special occasion, at Christmas or whatever that there would be alcohol in the house. For many people now it is a standard commodity to have in the house, if we can call it a commodity. If we go to visit somebody or somebody comes to visit us, the likelihood is that a glass of wine will be offered rather than a cup of tea. That is an indication of just what a central part alcohol has come to play in our lives and how it has managed to wend its way into so many of our different activities.

The change in drinking habits coincided with the selling of alcohol at or below cost price, mainly in the big supermarket multiples. These are usually heavily promoted in-store at almost giveaway prices. This is very misleading of course, as supermarkets have to recoup these loss leaders by hiking up the price of foodstuffs and other goods. We are not actually getting a bargain. However, these kinds of offers are too good to refuse for many people, especially young people and problem drinkers. Alcohol is now available at literally pocket money prices, sometimes cheaper than water. The net effect is that consumption levels increase and people get more bang, or more harm, for their buck. A deep irony of this situation is that the multiples can claim a rebate on VAT due to the fact that they are selling below cost. It is a win-win situation for them.

We know from research that minimum unit pricing can lead to a significant 15% reduction in consumption among problem drinkers. It specifically targets very cheap lager, cider and spirits off sales and has no impact at all on pub or restaurant prices. Its impact on average priced alcohol for moderate drinkers will be negligible. The advertising restrictions proposed in the Bill are very minimalist and, as I said, it is unfortunate that there was a caving in at political level on the original proposal to ban sponsorship of sport and music events. The proposals on health information labelling are sensible. We all need reminding of the direct links between the use of alcohol and a number of health conditions, including some cancers. Information on calorie content is helpful in tackling obesity as the high calorie content of alcohol is often overlooked in weight management.

It is especially important to warn people of the dangers of alcohol intake when pregnant. This is a serious issue which needs a far greater level of attention. It is an issue which was highlighted by Dr. Mary O'Mahony, a specialist in public health medicine, at last year’s AGM of the Irish Medical Organisation when she stated that Ireland features as one of the five countries with the highest prevalence of alcohol use during pregnancy and consequent cases of foetal alcohol syndrome, FAS. It is estimated that 600 babies are born with FAS in Ireland each year, with an estimated 40,000 people living with the condition in this country. Some 80% of Irish women pregnant for the first time reported consuming some alcohol in pregnancy. Dr. O'Mahony was quoted as saying that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can cause a permanent disability called foetal alcohol spectrum disorder, FASD. She said that among the consequences is induced brain damage, which is permanent and is associated with physical, mental, educational, social and behavioural difficulties. At one end of the spectrum, FAS may have visible signs of abnormalities and be recognised at birth. FASD is not recognisable until preschool or school age when difficulties manifest. Children born with FAS can show the following: 50% developmental slowing down; severe brain dysfunction at ten years; 10% attention problem at five years; 60% attention problem at ten years; only 30% have IQ below normal but 100% have severe dysfunction in areas such as language, memory and activity levels. FASD has a huge societal impact and many children are misdiagnosed. As Dr. O'Mahony said at the conference, "Children with FASD fill our foster care places, adults with FAS fill our jails and many people are misdiagnosed."

More support for women and more resources in the form of screening and interventions for alcohol and health promotion campaigns to educate women on the consequences of drinking during pregnancy are urgently needed. These are very difficult statistics to talk about but we cannot ignore them any longer. For too long, we have swept them under the carpet and have not addressed this serious problem in respect of drinking during pregnancy and the resultant very significant problems that arise for children in that situation. FASD has a very significant impact on our population. There are 40,000 people living with it. It cannot be ignored.

In a response to a parliamentary question I tabled a few years ago, I was told:

Currently a Senior Psychologist in early intervention services who specialises in FASD provides training to clinical staff in the west and north-west area in so far as resources allow. Any additional resources required to develop screening tools for foetal alcohol syndrome or FASD, associated education programmes and specialised follow up services for children with positive diagnosis would have to be considered in the context of emerging priorities, service delivery plans and budgetary controls.

That reply is a couple of years old, and I do not know if anything has changed in the meantime. I certainly hope it has, and I will ask a follow-up parliamentary question on that, because this is a huge, very neglected area which needs to be addressed.

Another area dealt with by the Bill is the separation of alcohol in shops. This has been greatly watered down since the original proposal. An industry organisation, Responsible Retailers of Alcohol in Ireland, RRAI, is the body charged with overseeing adherence to guidelines on displays. This is self-regulation at its best. Every year the RRAI produces a glowing report on its members. This is despite the fact that there was no difficulty finding a shop which blatantly breached the guidelines and had slabs of cheap larger stacked high at the front of the shop, in its window and generally in-your-face and impossible to avoid. Whether in the local mini-market or in the big supermarkets, the effect of these displays has served to normalise alcohol with the intention of encouraging shoppers to treat it as a normal commodity.

There are areas not covered in this Bill, for example the need for greater enforcement of the law in respect of underage access to alcohol. We see very few prosecutions or closure orders for this offence. More commonly, it is a frequent occurrence for an adult to buy alcohol on behalf of minors and pass it on outside a shop. This too is an offence but it is rarely policed. Another phenomenon is alcohol deliveries to homes or even to public places. This is a key source of alcohol for young people, but there is little Garda activity in the area, and there remains confusion within the Garda about the legality of taking cash on delivery in those circumstances.

Ultimately, the biggest encouragement for young people to drink is Irish society’s ambivalent attitude to it. We prefer to turn a blind eye to the use and the abuse of alcohol, as manifested on our streets in every city and village at weekends. Many parents will say that at least it is not drugs, but we know that alcohol is now the number one substance of abuse among young people. It is condoned, it is tolerated and, in many cases, it is facilitated. For their sake, and for the sake of everyone else in this country who has a problem with alcohol, I urge the Minister to ensure that this legislation is passed as a matter of urgency and that we do not have any further delay.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this Bill. I agree with the Minister that its overall objective is to contribute to the reduction of the harmful use of alcohol in our country. It is disappointing that Irish people between the ages of 18 and 24 are top of the EU list for binge drinking. Ireland also ranks joint third for binge drinking in a World Health Organization analysis of 194 countries. I also agree that we must all take personal responsibility for our actions.

I support the idea of providing consumers with accurate information so they can make fully informed decisions when purchasing alcohol products. The health risks and benefits associated with drinking are too complex and detailed to be communicated on a label. The Minister might consider the system currently adopted in France or the United States. The label in France states that the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy, even in small amounts, can have severe consequences on the health of the child. The mandatory advertising in France states that excessive alcohol consumption or alcohol abuse is dangerous for the health. Non-mandatory advertising states that alcohol is to be enjoyed in moderation. The Government warning in the United States is that "[a]ccording to the Surgeon General, women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects" and that "[c]onsumption of alcoholic beverages impairs your ability to drive a car or operate machinery". In many cases it may cause health problems.

Various health studies have shown that moderate consumption of alcohol may be associated with certain health benefits, including protective effects against cardiovascular disease and diabetes. However, studies have also found that regular heavy drinking has been associated with some illnesses, including liver diseases, high blood pressure and an increased risk of certain types of cancer. A focus on one health issue alone does not give a full or accurate picture to help consumers to make an informed choice about drinking.

The link between cancer and alcohol consumption is far from settled, despite hundreds of epidemiological studies that have researched this issue. Cancer is a complex disease that is not entirely understood, and research continues. The causality of alcohol and cancer cannot be determined on the basis of epidemiological studies. Furthermore, the existing epidemiological studies cannot and do not account for the multitudes of confounding factors. It is noteworthy that all cancers for which alcohol is a risk factor also occur in the absence of drinking.

We must not apply a stigma to products produced in Ireland and give a clear advantage to our competition abroad, which is not required to carry such labels, such as producers of Scotch whisky or American whiskey. We cannot tell our export market that those products are better than Irish whiskey or else Irish whiskey will not exist. Risks, therefore, should be communicated clearly and accurately and should avoid scaremongering. There are also concerns that the proposal will result in regulatory divergence from the rest of the EU at a time when Brexit means that we need the support of the EU colleagues more than ever. I encourage the Minister to look at this section of the regulation again.

I recently visited the Cooley Distillery in Riverstown, Dundalk, County Louth, which has been in operation since 1987. It employs over 70 people directly and many more indirectly in an area where employment is limited. The company that owns Cooley Distillery has invested €14 million in the site since it purchased the facility in mid-2012. A new warehouse was built, existing equipment was significantly upgraded, and a new mash tun was installed, along with energy and water conservation infrastructure. This investment increases productivity, promotes sustainability, protects jobs and improves health and safety. Since 2011 shipment from this site has increased by 400%. The manager of the distillery stated to me that future investments in this facility could be in jeopardy if the perception that Ireland is a negative market in which to operate develops. This in turn could impact on jobs and investment in the local economy. He suggested that whatever is agreed can be applied in the form of a sticker. This would help with smaller producers and importers.

Other primary policy objectives include reducing alcohol consumption to 9.1 litres of pure alcohol per person per annum by 2020. In 2015 it was at 10.9 litres of pure alcohol per person. Another policy objective is to delay the initiation of alcohol consumption by children and young people. A recent European school survey project on alcohol and other drugs found that seven out of ten 15 to 16 year olds had already drunk alcohol. The Bill also seeks to reduce the harm caused by the misuse of alcohol. The same survey found that a quarter of Irish girls and almost a fifth of Irish boys have reported being injured or involved in an accident due to alcohol.

The introduction of minimum unit prices is another aim of the Bill. A minimum unit price of 10 cent per gram of alcohol will apply to licensed premises and will be measured in pub measures. A pint of Heineken will have a minimum price of €2.25. A pint of Budweiser will have a minimum price of €1.80. A pint of Bulmers cider will have a minimum price of €2.02. A measure of Jameson whiskey will have a minimum price of €1.12. As is clear, this will have no impact on the prices in our pubs, clubs and restaurants.

The Bill will also provide for restrictions on the contents, placement and volume of alcohol advertising. The aim of these provisions is to protect children from exposure to alcohol advertising and to address advertising that links alcohol with positive, healthy lifestyles or social success. The advertising of alcohol products is prohibited in or on a sports area where sports are taking place, at an event aimed particularly at children, or an event where the majority of individuals taking part are children.

The Bill also provides for the drafting of regulations by the Minister for Health to prohibit or restrict certain type of promotions, for example, buy one alcoholic product and get another one free, or student night promotions. The intention of this provision is to prohibit promotions which encourage risky drinking, for example, those which encourage individuals to purchase or drink more than they intend or to drink faster than they intend.

I am a pioneer. I have never drunk alcohol in my life. I am not anti-drinking. I believe in drinking less and drinking better. I appeal to the Minister to have a look at my suggestion on labelling. I was disappointed with one of my colleagues for using the Dáil bar as an excuse to talk about alcohol. I have been a Deputy for the last seven years and I have never once seen anybody abuse alcohol. I go into the bar regularly to get my tea and scone and I can take people into the bar as well.

The only problem with the Dáil bar is that there are outstanding debts. The people who have outstanding debts should be given a time period in which to pay up. After that, if they want to go into the Dáil bar for a drink, they will have to pay there and then.

Debate adjourned.