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Lobbying on alcohol bill likened to ‘David vs Goliath’

“The industry has the upper hand and they seem to have a lot of willing ears in Leinster House,” Prof Joe Barry, Chair of Population Health Medicine at the Trinity College Centre for Health Sciences, told the Medical Independent (MI).

“This is completely David versus Goliath. They are big corporations with huge profits.”

Prof Barry noted that politicians have reported not seeing this scale of lobbying “even during the abortion debates”.

“The alcohol industry seems to have set up camp in Leinster House. They have retained some of the blue chip PR companies and they seem to have a heavy permanent presence in Leinster House.”

RCPI President Prof Frank Murray, another supporter of the Bill, told MI that “an enormous amount of lobbying is taking place by the alcohol industry”.

Prof Murray, who is also Chair of the RCPI Policy Group on Alcohol, added that the “intensity of the lobbying is almost unprecedented in terms of its scale”.

The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI) said that it is “entirely appropriate as part of the democratic process for stakeholders to communicate their positions on the Bill to politicians who are charged with scrutinising its provisions before its enactment”.

A Department of Health spokesperson confirmed to MI that the scale of recent lobbying against the Bill has been “significant”.

Asked about reports of division within the Government and Fine Gael over the Bill, a Department spokesperson said the legislation remained a Government “priority”.

Last year the Bill did not complete Committee stage in the time allocated in the Seanad. It will be rescheduled in the next session. However, the delay has caused serious concerns among supporters of the Bill.

*See feature pages 4&5

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