I will try to be brief but it is so important to mark the passage of this vital, life-saving legislation. I feel very emotional, mainly because I was so emotionally involved in the working through of this Bill. My heart and soul was in this. I came into this House to work on this legislation and it has been my passion for the past two and a half years. Apologies for the confusion but I know that this is the Minister's day. This Bill has been a huge priority for me, both as a legislator and as someone who works at the coal face. I work with the RISE Foundation. I receive letters from families constantly and I would love to show some of them to the Minister and to some of my colleagues, including Senator Noone, who have worked so hard on the legislation. To receive letters from people who are living in circumstances where alcohol is a problem in their families is very rewarding.
I thank the departmental officials who worked relentlessly on this Bill. I receive the letters to which I refer, I see the benefit to families and I know that this legislation will be life-changing and life-saving. I am so proud to have played a part in securing its passage, despite the efforts of the lobbyists. I agree with Senator Nash that we live in a democracy but I was surprised, if not shocked, by the amount of lobbying. That surprise may be because I was not involved in politics previously. I am so grateful to those on the other side of the alcohol lobby, including the amazing team of health specialists, community leaders and public health advocates who worked tirelessly to get this Bill through.
I really want to thank the Minister and his officials for their fantastic work and determination. I also thank Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy who brought this legislation into the Seanad in 2016 and who fought so hard for it when it really was not the popular thing to do. She had to fight tooth and nail. She was and still is incredible. I also want to thank Deputy Róisín Shortall who did fantastic work in the Department of Health to develop and promote an evidence-based, impactful Bill. I also want to mention former Senator Jillian van Turnhout, who is in the House today and who advocated so strongly for this Bill in the previous Seanad. She was a huge help to me when I was first elected and did not have a clue how the whole process works. I have been proud to work with the health spokespeople from the various political parties, particularly Deputy Louise O'Reilly from Sinn Féin, Deputy Stephen Donnelly from Fianna Fáil. They both showed great courage in standing up to industry lobbying in the last few weeks. I also thank my own group, the Civil Engagement Group, who have supported me. Special thanks are due to Conor O'Neill and Emma Quearney who work with me in my office and who have put their heart and soul into this legislation.
I want to thank the incredible groups and individuals across civil society who mobilised behind the Bill and refused to let industry profit come before public health. I refer to Eunan McKinney, Susan Costello, Catherine Keane and Conor Cullen from Alcohol Action Ireland, all of whom are in the Public Gallery. Today is a very special day for them too. I also thank Professor Frank Murray and Ms Siobhán Creighton from the Royal College of Physicians and Professor Joe Barry from Trinity College. I also thank the huge number of organisations that made up the Alcohol Health Alliance. It was testament to the broad level of support for this Bill that such a variety of groups, including the Irish Cancer Society, the National Women's Council of Ireland, the Union of Students in Ireland and Mental Health Reform, backed it. I also thank the GPs, doctors and emergency service personnel who brought their expertise and experience to the Bill, particularly those in Cork University Hospital who were hugely supportive of an event I ran down there. We cannot forget the drug and alcohol task forces around the country who do amazing work where it is most needed and who really rallied behind this legislation. In particular, I thank Hugh Greaves and Maria Lawless in Ballymun as well as David Lane, Kate Gibney, Joe Kirby and all of the gang in Cork, who were a real inspiration. I also want to say a very special thank you to John and Ann Higgins, who tragically lost their beautiful son to alcohol. They showed incredible courage and bravery in pushing for change and advocating for public health in his memory. If they are listening, I want to tell them that they are both an inspiration.
Ireland has a harmful relationship with alcohol but I firmly believe that this is the beginning of change. If we are dedicated and committed in our communities and in this Parliament, we can break the cycle of alcohol harm. We can change and save many lives and this Bill is an historic step in doing that. I am so happy to see this day. I never thought I would see it and am so grateful to the Minister for Health. I swear to God, this is an amazing day. I feel so, so happy and I thank the Minister from the bottom of my heart. Go raibh míle, míle maith agat.