This is a very special day. People in these Houses work very hard on a daily basis but every now and then we reach a moment in time when a huge body of work comes to finalisation and today is one of those days. Senator Black has raised the question as to whose day this is; this is a day for the next generation of citizens, for the young people growing up in Ireland today. They will grow up in a country with public health legislation that will, over time, change our behaviour, attitudes and culture when it comes to our relationship with drink. That is really what this legislation is about. There is no magic wand or silver bullet. This is about putting in place a number of measures for the first time ever, from a public health perspective, to try to change the corrosive alcohol culture that we have in Ireland.
The Seanad and the Lower House have done some really good work, on a bipartisan basis, for young boys and girls growing up in the country. That is really what today is about. People have been at this for such a long time. I have the honour of the being Minister for Health when this comes to fruition. We have had a difficult enough battle to get to this point ourselves, but people have been working on this since 2009. The chief medical officer, Dr. Tony Holohan, has done huge work and shown huge leadership in working on this. My officials, including Claire Gordon, Denise Keogh and Siobhán McNamara, have worked on this tirelessly for so long. I thank them for their dedication and patience. They have seen the political system in operation and experienced the frustrations which accompany that from time to time.
I thank all of my predecessors in the Department of Health who have worked on this issue, both Ministers and Ministers of State. They have all been named by Senator Nash. I share that view absolutely. I hope the House will forgive me if I pay particular tribute to Senator Reilly who is with us today. His tenure in the Department of Health will be remembered for his leadership on public health issues in respect of tobacco, alcohol, obesity, etc. It does save lives; therefore, I thank him for his work on this. I pay particular tribute to my friend and colleague, Deputy Marcella Corcoran-Kennedy, who got a very hard time and was treated very unfairly when she tried to push the Bill in this House. She was the subject of very intense criticism which I felt was often unwarranted. She worked extraordinarily hard. We are also doing this for Deputy Corcoran-Kennedy out of respect for the legacy she brought in the role she played.
Senator Black mentioned John and Ann Higgins. I have never met them, but I feel I know them. Only today I got a chance to watch their video on Alcohol Action Ireland's Twitter feed. I thank them for sharing with us intimate moments of their own lives in respect of the passing of their son and highlighting to us the importance of passing this legislation. I thank Senator Black. She has been a pleasure to work with. I am sure I have driven her crazy at times as we have tried to get the legislation to this point. She has been a champion and I really want to thank her for it. I thank colleagues on all sides of the House - all of the health spokespersons and all of the Senators who have taken a particular interest in this - for the way we have worked together in a bipartisan fashion.
This Bill has had very lengthy consideration in the Seanad and the Lower House. While that can be frustrating at times, it is perhaps not unexpected because this is the first time we have ever had public health legislation in this area. Up to this point, the only time the Dáil or Seanad discussed alcohol has been in the context of deciding excise rates. We have now used a very successful tool, public health legislation, in respect of alcohol. That was always going to be a problem because groundbreaking measures are difficult.
I thank the civil society groups including Alcohol Action Ireland. I would say this if Senator McDowell were here, I am not just saying it because he is not here, but I fundamentally disagree with his point. The people who have been lobbying in favour of this Bill have done this country a huge service in my view.