Irish health Minister Roisín Shorthall's anti-alcohol crusade: minimum pricing and ban on sports sponsorship could take effect this year

The Junior Minister with responsibility for health, Roisin Shorthall (Lab), is showing no signs of letting up on her battle to tackle Ireland's drink problem, with tough minimum pricing legislation now promised to come in as soon as this Fall.

The anti-sponsorhip proposals tabled by the Minister of State (non-Cabinet Minister) seek to impose a ruthless crackdown on drinks sponsorship for both sporting and cultural events, and have already reportedly provoked dissension from full Cabinet Ministers including Minister for Sport and Tourism, Leo Varadkar.

A rift has emerged between Fine Gael and its government partners Labour over how tough the measures the government will impose are going to be.

Many see the joint proposals as an unnecessary broadside against the drinks industry in Ireland, with some calling the promised measures the beginnings of a slip into a puritanical way of thinking.

Several recent high-profile cases of public disorder allegedly involving alcohol are also only likely to galvanize support for Shorthall's proposals among those pushing for the new laws to come into force.

Among them, the Swedish House Mafia concert in Dublin's Phoneix Park, which saw multiple stabbings and arrests as the gig quickly descended into drug and drunk fueled anarchy.

Shorthall's proposals for minimum alcohol pricing, however, could already be doomed for failure if a Scottish legal challenge being mounted by the Scotch industry against similar legislation there gets the judicial green light.

Though, unlike its Southern neighbour, not also a common law system, a successful challenge by the whiskey-makers could give government pause to re-consider the proposed legislation lest powerful bodies such as the Vitners Federation of Ireland bring forth a similar case.

The junior Minister, whose exact portfolio is in Primary Care, seems to have a strained working relationship with her Cabinet counterpart, Minister for Health Dr. James Reilly.

The Labour Deputy refused to publicly state her confidence in the burly doctor, merely saying that they needed to cooperate in the public interest.

The hotly unpopular minimum alcohol measures prompted a litany of hostile comments on popular online news aggregator, TheJournal.ie.

"We already have some of the highest prices for alcohol in Europe," one commented, using the pseudonym Bilbo Baggins, commented, "raising the price simply punishes responsible drinkers for the actions of others for whom price will have no bearing."

David Bond, who said he had worked as a pub owner on Continental Europe for 20 years, said that it was Ireland's 'drinking culture', not the price of liquor, that was to blame for the widespread prevalence of late-night anti-social behaviour often attributed to alcohol.

"Cheaper booze is readily available in Germany, Holland etc. People don’t abuse it to anywhere near the same extent as here. Of course they have alcohol problems but its minimal in comparison," he commented on the website.

Tomy Iona agreed, "Given the price of alcohol on mainland Europe we need to look at the problem – and that problem isn’t price."

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