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State of the Nation

Did drinks companies water down the new alcohol laws?

Here’s everything you need to know about what’s happening in Irish politics right now…

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Everybody’s talking about…

The Government’s plans to tackle alcohol abuse.

shots Shutterstock Shutterstock

Yesterday Health Minister Leo Varadkar announced proposals that include restrictions on low prices and advertising, as well as the introduction of warning labels and calorie details. The long-delayed Bill will also make it illegal to market alcohol in ways that are appealing to children.

The new rules do not include banning alcohol companies from sponsoring sporting events, an idea that met with significant resistance from sports bodies. Vardakar insisted the Government had “not abandoned the principle” of a sports sponsorship ban, but had decided to go ahead with “80% of measures that everybody agrees on”. 

Former junior health minister Róisín Shortall told Morning Ireland she was “disappointed” Varadkar has “decided to stick with an existing code of practice in relation to sponsorship” as it has been “drawn up by alcohol companies themselves”.

Pictured is Minister Varadkar discuss Leo Varadkar pictured as he announced the proposals yesterday. Sasko Lazarov / Photocall Ireland Sasko Lazarov / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

Shortall said the rules don’t go far enough, describing the heads of the Bill as “only small progress”.

Politicians traditionally have been very slow to tackle this issue. The alcohol industry is very powerful within this country and has very good access to a lot of senior politicians.

So, will the new laws make any difference?

It’s unlikely they’ll come into effect this year, as they will need to be debated further over the coming months. Announcing the plans, Varadkar said he wasn’t “prepared to postpone this legislation and continue to have endless discussions and delays”.

With the contentious issue of alcohol sponsorship put on the long finger yet again, it’s an issue a future Government will no doubt have to address.

The agenda

  • Michael Noonan will be talking all things financial in the Dáil at 9.30am.
  • Enda Kenny will be answering Leaders’ Questions at 12pm.
  • The draft legislation to assist survivors of Magdalene laundries is set to be discussed by the Justice Committee at 2pm.
  • Boko Haram will provide the main focus for members of the Foriegn Affairs Committee at 2.30pm.
  • TDs will be debating personal insolvency at 2.39pm, and discussing giving the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) more powers at 5.30pm.
  • Jan O’Sullivan will launch an anti-bullying resource for primary schools at the Department of Education at 5.30pm.
  • The Dáil will debate a Technical Group motion calling for a European Debt Conference at 7pm.
  • The Fine Gael and Labour parliamentary parties are set to meet in Leinster House this evening.

Inside Leinster House

The letters between Enda Kenny’s office and former Justice Minsiter Alan Shatter regarding the latter’s objections to elements of the proposed inquiry into Garda malpractice were released yesterday.

Ceann Comhairle Seán Barrett denied the correspondence from Shatter influenced his decision to block a Dáil debate on the establishment of a Commission of Investigation. The move led to a dispute between Barrett and opposition TDs that was seemingly resolved yesterday.

The letters provide a fascinating insight into Shatter’s concerns. He may now seek to challenge the establishment of the Commission through the courts.

What the others are saying

  • The Irish Times reports that Junior Minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin is “worried” the same-sex marriage referendum could be lost due to hostility over water charges.
  • According to the same paper, children’s rights campaigner Louise O’Keeffee has criticised the Government’s plan for compensating children who were sexually abused in primary schools.
  • The Central Bank has urged the Government not to increase wages as it will affect the country’s competitiveness, according to the Irish Independent
  • The same paper reports that Environment Minster Alan Kelly has approved hiring 200 senior local authority staff to speed up the delivery of social housing.

In case you missed it

On the Twitter machine

And now for a sporting interlude…

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