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Alcohol should be seen firstly as a health issue - Ó Caoláin

15 June, 2005

Sinn Féin Health spokesperson and Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has welcome the fact that Michael McDowell's café bar proposals have been dropped. Speaking in the Dáil this evening he said, "Alcohol should be seen firstly as a health issue."

Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "Sinn Féin welcomes the fact that the café bar proposal has now been dropped. It was supposedly aimed at changing drinking culture, addressing binge-drinking and related public order and other offences, as well as countering the trend towards 'super-pubs'. However Minister McDowell failed to show how the creation of another category of licensed premises would achieve any of this, especially as pubs can already serve food and many are making this change anyway.

"It was ludicrous to suggest that drinking culture could be changed, and people induced to go out for meals with drinks, rather than drinks alone, by means of a change in the licensing laws. The law would have created more outlets for alcohol consumption in addition to existing pubs -- including super-pubs. This undermined the argument that it would address over-consumption of alcohol.

"I am participating in this debate as my party's spokesperson on health because alcohol should be seen firstly as a health issue. I find it very disturbing that the Minister gave no weight to the opposition to his proposal on health grounds from the Government's own Strategic Task Force on Alcohol, the Irish Medical Organisation and the National Alcohol Policy Advisor to the Department of Health and Children.

"The debate we should be having here tonight is a debate on our society's attitude to alcohol and how that drug is regulated. Our first concern should be public health. Alcohol-related illness affects far more people than alcohol-related anti-social behaviour. This is All-Ireland Men's Health Week, called by the Men's Health Forum. In their excellent report, Men's Health in Ireland, they highlight how men, and young men in particular, are most at risk from the dangers of alcohol consumption. The sharp increase in alcohol consumption in this State over the past decade is reflected in a rise in drink-related illnesses, including cancers, and in deaths. This aspect of the alcohol debate gets far too little attention. We need resources to educate people about the dangers of alcohol and the advantages of more measured consumption." ENDS

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