Plans for legislation to curb alcohol advertising in the Irish Republic have been shelved by the government, provoking angry criticism inside and outside parliament.
The news comes as pressure continues to mount for alcohol advertising to become more restrained in the UK, with drinks producers closely watching the Republic to see if an outright ban was judged feasible.
The legislative crackdown in Ireland had been a key recommendation of a government-appointed task force that investigated the widespread problem of alcohol abuse and binge drinking.
But Taoiseach Bertie Ahern told parliament that “voluntary agreements” have been reached
with the drinks and advertising industries and that legislation had been deferred. The shelving of legislation provoked a barrage of criticism in parliament, with opposition members claiming the government had given in to pressure from the industry.
John Gormley of the Green Party called the decision “shameful”, and added: “It costs this state millions and millions every year to deal with problems caused by alcohol. Despite that, the government has decided to play ball with the industry. It’s a dereliction of duty.”
However, Sean Power, a minister in the department of health, claimed that a total ban on drinks advertising in the Republic was impossible.
Under the agreed code, he said, there would be no alcohol advertising in television or cinema programmes where more than a third of the audience was under 18, no alcohol advertising in programmes specifically aimed at children, and no outdoor advertising for alcohol within 100m of schools.
Power promised that if the voluntary code failed to deliver improvements, legislation would in fact be introduced.
Anthony Garvey