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'I binge drink myself, and I'm ashamed of that': TDs debate alcohol sponsorship of sport

Alcohol and fluoridation of the Irish drinking water supply were discussed by a small number of TDs in a new-look Friday sitting in the Dáil today.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLHQMDM07DY

TDS THIS MORNING considered an Oireachtas Committee report on the sponsorship of sport by alcohol companies in a discussion which heard a mix of personal experiences and views on how to tackle alcohol abuse in this country.

The Dáil chamber was mostly empty for the debate but among a number of interesting contributions was Jerry Buttimer’s with the Fine Gael TD admitting to binge drinking  at times.

“I take a pint, I take a drink, I binge drink myself, and I’m ashamed of that, but collectively as a nation we must change our attitude to alcohol,” he said.

Buttimer, the chairman of the Oireachtas Health Committee, said that promotion of alcohol should be “strongly tackled” and hit out at the use of Arthur’s Day and the Guinness Brewery during visits by foreign dignitaries.

“We have far better imagery along the coasts in County Clare, with the Cliffs of Moher or in my own county of Cork with the Lakes of Killarney or in West Cork where we can bring these dignitaries.”

His Fine Gael colleague, Eoghan Murphy, said that tackling alcohol abuse should not mean closing off-licences early and said that Ireland’s problem with drink is “historical and cultural”.

“There’s a crowd of people down in Temple Bar getting hammered every week,” he said, adding that “education and example” and “not policies not based on evidence” should be used.

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Former primary care minister Roísín Shortall commended her successor Alex White for bringing forward measures to tackle alcohol abuse, but said that the Committee’s report failed to identify streams of revenue to replace alcohol sponsorship.

The government has delayed implementation of any ban on alcohol sponsorship of sport until a ‘working group’ reports back in a year’s time.

Independent TD Mick Wallace suggested that the government should pay €200 million to sporting organisations to make up for the shortfall caused by loss of sports sponsorship.

Committee chairman, John O’Mahoney from Fine Gael, said that he hoped in future we would live in a country “where sport can thrive and sports people can be healthier”.

“The ideal solution is that sport and alcohol sponsorship would be divided, but let’s get the funding to replace it,” he said towards the end of the debate.

Earlier, TDs discussed Sinn Féin’s private members’ bill to ban the use of fluoride in Ireland’s drinking water supply. Brian Stanley, who brought the bill before the house, said that people should not be forced to consume the product.

But White, representing the government, said suggestions that fluoride in the water supply is unsafe could not be “further from the truth”.

He said: “The balance of scientific evidence worldwide confirms that water fluoridation, at the optimal level, does not cause ill effects and protects the oral health of the population.”

Read: TDs will sit earlier and for longer from this week

TGIF: How have the Dáil’s Friday sittings worked out?

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Hugh O'Connell

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