Letters – Response: Visitors to Irish whiskey distilleries up 11% in 2017

Sir,

In response to ‘Irish Whiskey distilleries see visitor numbers rise 11%’ (9 Jan), may I correct for your readers the inaccurate claims from the alcohol industry that the Public Health Alcohol Bill will ‘severely constrain’ the promotion and advertising of distillery visitor centres. There is no such provisions in the proposed Bill.

While many tourists may be guided to experience this commercial endeavour,  a closer examination of Fáilte Ireland’s Overseas Holidaymakers’ Attitudes Survey demonstrates that our tourists principally continue to choose Ireland for its people, its scenery and its historical culture, to name three of thirteen ‘Important Factors in considering Ireland’ and not industrial distilleries.

Irish Whiskey Association (IWA) has, like IBEC and ABFI before, again criticise government and the Department of Health for their commitment to the principles of the World Health Organisation, which categorically state “the alcohol industry has no role in the formulation of alcohol policies, which must be protected from distortion by commercial or vested interests” (WHO Director General Dr Margaret Chan, 2013).

A review of the lobbying register highlights this has not always been the case. However, by refusing a further intervention now that simply seeks to dilute, or delay, innovative public health measures is not unbalanced but merely recognises that, on this issue of public health, the interest of business cannot hold equal weight. To accept the IWA position is to believe business should have an architectural role in constructing public health policy.

Alcohol Action Ireland believe the bottom line remains the same, there is an irreconcilable conflict between those who wish to protect public health from alcohol harms and those who seek to guard pecuniary interests selling alcohol.

While I appreciate that the alcohol industry will seek every opportunity to promote their product perhaps a balanced analysis of the facts would serve us all well.

Yours

Eunan McKinney

Head of Communications and Advocacy

Alcohol Action Ireland

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