It might be a surprise to some that I support this legislation. I have spoken openly on the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill and will probably speak on it again today. It is something that I am extremely passionate about. Unfortunately, people might think I am in the temperance movement given I am so passionate about that Bill. However, I support this legislation because, in recent years, Good Friday has been marred by excessive drinking in homes throughout the country. The panic buying of alcohol in the days beforehand is a sad reflection on our culture. Excessive drinking in homes where young people are present sends out the wrong message. I, therefore, welcome any measure that will help reduce the harm that alcohol will do to the health of our people and am delighted that Senator Lawless supports the idea of the pub being a regulated environment.
I would like to see the introduction of responsible serving of alcohol training built in as a requirement under licensing law in Ireland.Given the level of pre-drinking at home before people go out, many licensed premises serve alcohol to people who are already intoxicated.
I wish to make a number of points on pubs opening on Good Friday. This was one of the few days in the year that bar workers could spend with their families, and it should be an optional work day where if they decide to work they get compensated. It would be like working for a bank on a bank holiday.
The expressions of support I have received with regard to the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill from people throughout the country is very heartening. Recently, I was in Cork where I was asked to speak at several community events on the impact of alcohol on society. There is genuine disbelief that there are public representatives out there who are not in favour of the Bill in its entirety. The Bill will save lives. The notion that the retail and alcohol industry is succeeding in influencing some Deputies and Senators to prioritise profits before the health of the nation is incomprehensible to most people to whom I speak. It is imperative the alcohol industry does not have any input into the legislation that would benefit the health of the Irish people and that any lobbying by these vested interests is opposed. To put it into stark terms, the saving of even one life is much more important than the profits of multinational corporations. Every day, three people die from an alcohol-related illness and this needs to be tackled.
The crisis of people being forced to stay on trolleys in hospitals must be considered against the fact that 1,500 hospital beds are taken up each day by people with an alcohol-related issue. No family with a relative on a hospital trolley would support the idea that company profits are more important than a loved one's health care.
I am not opposed to alcohol when it is used in moderation. Education on the effect of alcohol needs to be available to all. The fact that one in eight cases of breast cancer is caused by alcohol needs to be highlighted. The cultural change around alcohol needed in this country is being led by the great work of the Minister of State, Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, in introducing the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill. We know alcohol is a psychoactive drug and should be treated as such.
I have mentioned previously that I work with families who deal with this issue every day. Their hearts are broken watching their adult children going down this self-destructive route. This is why I am so passionate. I am supportive of the legislation because I believe in the pub. It can be a really good environment where people can socialise, once alcohol is monitored or supervised in some way. The fact alcohol is legal does not reduce the harm it does, and we have an obligation to ensure Ireland is not defined by our consumption of this drug. I hope we will arrive at a time when the idea of pubs being opened or closed on Good Friday will be irrelevant.
I support the legislation and I wish Senator Billy Lawless well. He also supports the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill and I appreciate this. I hope my timing was all right.