Press Release

Minister Marcella Corcoran Kennedy opens EU seminar about “Public Health Policy and Alcohol Harm”

Minister for Health Promotion, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy TD, today opened the “Public Health and Alcohol Harm” seminar. The seminar was organised and hosted by the Permanent Representation of Ireland to the EU in Brussels.

The aim of the seminar was to discuss possible measures that Member States are contemplating in the fight against alcohol harm, such as minimum unit pricing and nutritional labelling, and to examine possible action that the Commission can take.

The seminar included contributions from the Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Satefy, Professor Nick Sheron, Professor and Head of Clinical Hepatology within Medicine at the University of Southampton, and Prof. Amandine Garde, Professor of Law at the University of Liverpool.

The seminar was very well attended by a broad spectrum of participants, such as representatives from other Member States, clinicians, academics, public health advocates and industry representatives.

Speaking at the seminar, Minister Corcoran Kennedy said: “I am delighted to be here today to discuss the issue of alcohol. Ireland has a serious problem – we drink too much alcohol. In spite of what we might like to think, alcohol is not abused by a small minority of individuals – the majority of people who drink do so in a harmful way. Our alcohol consumption is in the top 5 among EU 28 Member States.

“The Government in Ireland is committed to tackling alcohol misuse in Ireland and the widespread harm and pain it causes. The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill was initiated in the Seanad last December and remains a priority for this Government. We expect to see it progress through the Houses of the Oireachtas this Autumn”.

The Minister was encouraged by the positive engagement from the Commission and the support she received from other Member States, who voiced their admiration for the provisions in the Bill.

Note for Editors

The aim of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill is to reduce consumption to the OECD average by 2020 (i.e. 9.1 litres of pure alcohol per capita) and the harms caused by alcohol. This is part of a suite of measures agreed by the Government in 2013 on foot of the recommendations in the Steering Group Report of the National Substance Misuse Strategy. The Bill is one of a number of measures being taken under the Healthy Ireland Framework.

The Government approved the publication of the Bill on 8th December 2015. The Bill was initiated in the Seanad on the 17th December 2015. It remains a Government priority and has now been restored on the Seanad Order paper. It is expected that it will be scheduled for Committee Stage shortly.

The Bill includes the following main provisions:

  • minimum unit pricing;
  • health labelling of alcohol products;
  • the regulation of advertising and sponsorship of alcohol products;
  • the regulation of sponsorship;
  • structural separation of alcohol products in mixed trading outlets; and
  • the regulation of the sale and supply of alcohol in certain circumstances.

Minimum Unit Pricing – ECJ Judgement

The European Court of Justice ruled on 23rd December 2015 on proposals by the Scottish Government to introduce Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP). The Court stated that it is ultimately for the national court to determine whether measures other than that provided for by the Scottish legislation, such as increased taxation on alcoholic drinks, are capable of protecting human life and health as effectively as the current legislation, while being less restrictive of trade in those products within the EU. The case returned to the Scottish Courts where it was heard over four days in June and July. The Department is in periodic contact with our Scottish counterparts.