The Irish Whiskey Association has warned that both the reputation of the Irish whiskey industry and the credibility of the Irish government are being put at risk from the increasingly-negative international perception that the proposed Public Health (Alcohol) Bill is both excessive and disproportionate.
In a new assessment published on US business and news website Forbes.com, commentator Joseph V Micallef calls-out “the Irish government’s schizophrenic attitude toward the Irish whiskey industry.”
Micallef is a leading US wine and spirits writer, best-selling author, and a commentator on military and international affairs for CNN and Fox News.
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In the article, titled “The Future of Irish Whiskey: Is Dublin A Help Or A Hindrance”, Micallef claims that “the increase in Irish whiskey production, demand and worldwide sales is indisputable and impressive” while critically assessing the challenges facing current expansion of the industry and some of the future growth, including the “schizophrenic attitude” of the Irish government.
Micallef states, “On the one hand, Dublin wants to encourage new distilleries and whiskey related tourism, seeing it as an important driver of rural development and a source of significant growth for the economy. It also likes the hundreds of million of euros that the industry dumps into the government’s coffers.
“On the other hand, the Irish government has imposed one of the highest tax rates on spirits in the EU, and taken a variety of steps to discourage the consumption of whiskey and other spirits. The Public Health Act recently tabled, being the most recent example.
“It is as if Dublin wants the lucrative tax revenue that the industry generates, the promise of rural jobs and development it can create, not to mention the tourism dollars and visitors it encourages, while at the same time preferring that no one actually drinks the stuff.
Micallef continued, “For many, new craft whiskey, distilleries and tourism may well turn out to be the lifeblood that keeps them going. Many of the new start-up distilleries will be challenged to obtain broad, international distribution. That means encouraging visitors, especially foreign tourists, and more importantly, promoting distillery visitor centre sales of their products, will be critical to their long-term survival.
“That’s going to be difficult if the Irish government is inadvertently making it difficult for these distilleries to promote themselves to tourists, while at the same time taxing their products at among the highest rates in the EU.”
Irish Whiskey Association Response
Responding to the article, William Lavelle, head of the Irish Whiskey Association, said, “It is very welcome to see one of the most-renowned international media outlets giving over space to critically-assess the success of Irish whiskey category; and to recognising the ‘indisputable and impressive’ growth of our industry.
“It is equally worrying that the reputation of the Irish whiskey industry and the credibility of the Irish government are being put-at-risk from the increasingly-negative international perception that the proposed Public Health (Alcohol) Bill is both excessive and disproportionate.
“Irish whiskey remains the fastest-growing spirits category in the world. There is widespread disbelief that our own government could seek to hamper this growth by bringing in draconian measures at a time when consumption of alcohol in Ireland has fallen 23% since 2001.
“We are calling for removal from the bill of the crude proposal for cancer warning labels which has not been subjected to any form of independent impact assessment. We also want a full exemption for Distillery and brewery visitor centres from the proposed advertising restrictions in the bill, which would ludicrously hit some of Ireland’s leading tourism attractions.
“It’s not too late for government to sit-down with our industry and agree reasonable amendments to the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill which both meet the objectives of the bill while protecting the Irish whiskey category.”
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