If the Government is serious about tackling alcohol missuse, it must ban alcohol sponsorship in sport within its current term of office, says Ballina man John Higgins.
Mr Higgins’s son, David, drowned in the River Moy on March 13, 2011, and the inquest into his death found that alcohol had been a contributing factor in his death. Mr Higgins has called for tighter regulations on the sale and promotion of alcohol. He spoke on the matter before an Oireachtas Committee on Health last November.
In February, a Department of Health expert group recommended that drinks-industry sponsorship of sport and other large events be phased out by 2016. However, following the report’s publication, a number of government ministers, including Minister of State for Sport and Tourism Michael Ring, expressed concern that a ban on alcohol sponsorship could have a negative consequence for sport and tourism.
In an interview with Morning Ireland recently, Junior Minister Ring acknowledged that alcohol had a negative impact on the lives of many Irish families. However, he added that “we have to live in the real world”, and he said that taking away alcohol-industry sponsorship would cause great difficulty for sporting organisations.
When asked when would be a good time to take away sponsorship he replied: “Maybe it is something you could look at over the next ten to 15 years, but certainly you can’t take away sponsorship just like that.”
However, speaking to The Mayo News, John Higgins said the Government must act on the recommendations of the expert group if it to show it is serious.
“My reply to the minister is that no one is talking of taking away sponsorship overnight, four years seems like a reasonable length of time to phase it out … it needs to be done within the term of this government.
“Does the Minister think that the report of an expert group is of no value? Does he think the alcohol abuse problem will be any better in ten or 15 years? Why is it that when we get good advice from people who have researched the problem of alcohol abuse, an elected representative would choose to ignore it?” he asked, adding: “I think that it’s time the minister looks within himself and grasps the nettle.”
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