The Irish Whiskey Association – part of the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland – has called for last-minute changes to be made to the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill in a bid to protect Ireland’s whiskey tourism sector and the country’s small distillers.
Under the current Bill, a ban would be enacted on free-standing way-marking or directional signage with the name of a distillery or alcohol brand from any Luas or bus stop, or within 200 metres from the boundary of a school or early years facility.
The concerns come in the wake of growth for Irish distilleries – the Association notes that there are currently 13 whiskey distillery visitor centres across Ireland, with plans for an additional 13 to open in the coming years. Last year visitor numbers to Irish distilleries grew to 814,000 – an increase of 11 per cent. William Lavelle, Head of the Irish Whiskey Association, has described some of the measures in the Bill as “excessive”, “impractical”, “disproportionate” and in some cases “just ludicrous”.
“The Irish whiskey industry supports the objectives of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill. It is in our industry’s long-term interest to promote sustainable and responsible levels of alcohol consumption in Ireland. This is happening already, as alcohol consumption has declined by over 23 per cent since 2001 according to CSO and Revenue Commissioner data,” Lavelle stated. “Irish whiskey distilleries attracted 814,000 paying visitors last year, over 90 per cent of whom were overseas tourists. They play an integral part of Ireland’s tourism offering, particularly in parts of the country with a less well-established tourism footfall. Yet, the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill will severely contain the advertising and promotion of Irish whiskey distillery visitor centres.”
Lavelle also added that it was ludicrous to think that, at a time when the government is promoting Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands, the Tullamore D.E.W. visitor centre will be restricted when it comes to erecting named signs in their hometown.
“This is what happens when legislation isn’t properly scrutinised or when Government refuse to engage with industry. Other parts of this Bill haven’t even been subjected to regulatory impact assessment,” Lavelle noted, raising concerns over the effect such restrictions would have on the competitiveness and viability of small Irish whiskey distilleries. “We are calling for a small number of reasonable amendments to protect the Irish whiskey tourism sector and small distillers around Ireland. It’s not too late to get this right.”