Home > Seanad Éireann debate. Order of business.[Alcohol]

[Oireachtas] Seanad Éireann debate. Order of business.[Alcohol]. (19 Sep 2018)

Senator Frances Black I welcome all of our colleagues back to the House. It feels like we have a lot of work ahead of us.


As most Senators will be aware, since I was elected to this House I have worked very hard to tackle alcohol harm in Irish society.


I have watched the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill come through the Seanad and I am pleased that we have gotten it through the Seanad. As we know it has been over 1,000 days and over 3,000 people have died in Ireland because of alcohol. I know that the Bill was meant to come into the Dáil tonight and that it has been postponed until next week but I am seriously concerned about the Final Stages and how the alcohol industry has been working so hard over the summer months, making one last shameful attempt to weaken the Bill and to remove some of its key provisions.


My colleagues will remember that we agreed in the Seanad in November with cross party support, on amendments tabled by myself and Senator Nash, that cancer warnings would form a key part of this legislation. This is important because public knowledge on the empirical, proven link between alcohol and fatal cancers is shockingly low. People know that smoking causes cancer but the awareness is just not there with regard to alcohol.


We know from research in the UK that 90% of people do not know that alcohol increases the risk of cancer and we have a similar figure of 80% here in Ireland. Those numbers aware of the link are shockingly low and the industry would like to keep them that way because it does not want people to know that alcohol causes cancer.


What is important is that we are not just talking about health issues caused by high levels of problem drinking, but by frequent, moderate use. I want to emphasise that alcohol can cause cancer by moderate use. People do not realise the effect it has and this is particularly worrying when it comes to cancer. The Healthy Ireland survey data shows that only 27% of women and 16% of young women know that even one glass of wine a night can substantially increase the risk of contracting breast cancer. Reasonable estimates say that this has resulted in about 350 cases of breast cancer a year. I wonder what an industry lobbyist would say to a young woman dealing with a cancer diagnosis as a result. I am sure they all have mothers, sisters and daughters. Would they be happy that they fought so hard to resist reasonable awareness raising health warnings that could have prevented some of these cases? This is about making sure that people have the information needed to make an informed decision and I ask the political parties to stand firm on this point, to put public awareness and health above profit. I ask the Leader to reintroduce the Bill in this House as a matter of urgency once it has passed Final Stage in the Dáil so that we can finally get it up to the Park and signed into law. I will be one happy woman when I see that day…………………


Senator Jerry Buttimer…………On the point raised by Senator Black, the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015 was not delayed by the Government in the Lower House, but for other reasons. The Taoiseach is on record as saying as late as yesterday that it is a priority of the Government to have that Bill enacted as soon as possible. It is my understanding that the Bill will be back before the Dáil next week. I give the Senator a commitment that the Bill will be taken here as soon as possible after the Dáil has done its work. The Senator will be aware that much of what happens in the Seanad is conditional on the Dáil concluding its business. She is correct that we need to have the conversation about the continued misuse and abuse of alcohol in our society. The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill is but one measure in this regard, although an important one. Senator Black is to be commended for the work that she does. Having the type of conversations which bring people on a journey forms part of what we must do.

Senator Bacik raised the issue of the eighth amendment. I welcome the signing into law by President Higgins of the Thirty-sixth Amendment of the Constitution Bill 2018. The eighth amendment is now repealed. Those of us who campaigned for it very much welcome that signature yesterday.

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