DUBLIN: Ireland’s alcoholic drinks industry is facing significant change as proposed public health legislation works its way through parliament and as the possible impact of Brexit focuses minds on cross-border challenges.

As the biggest drinks company in the country, Diageo Ireland, is particularly concerned about the provisions of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, being debated today.

This includes new labelling requirements and would also ban alcohol advertising on television before 9pm, introduce minimum pricing and restrictions on in-store displays.

“Our concern in a nutshell, is that Ireland will become one of the only countries in the world that will require alcohol products to be labelled with one-third of the label having a cancer/carcinogenic warning,” Ollie Loomes, country director of Diageo Ireland, told the Irish Independent.

“It could have very significant negative consequences in terms of international reputation of the industry’s brands, of fantastic Irish brands, of their growth abroad. And, ultimately, that will have an impact on investment in Ireland.”

Having passed through the Upper House in December, the bill starts its passage through the Dáil Éireann today with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar having indicated he does not expect any further amendments.

The other major issue that will affect the drinks industry is the UK’s decision to leave the EU. Loomes said that while Diageo globally was planning to “take Brexit in our stride”, there were operational complications in Ireland itself.

“We’ve got very much an integrated, all-Ireland supply chain,” he pointed out. “We’ve got manufacturing operations in Dublin on Guinness, right here at the brewery. We've also got a manufacturing packaging plant on beer up in Belfast.

“And on Baileys … we’ve got manufacturing in Dublin and we’ve got manufacturing up in Northern Ireland.

He estimated that, between beer and Bailey’s, there were around 18,000 cross-border truck movements over the course of a year.

“When you get into the impact in terms of costs, of delays at borders and so on, that would have a big impact on our business in terms of cost but also just complexity and ability to run our business as well,” he said.

And not just for Diageo: Loomes added that there are question marks over the future of many small businesses and communities which are linked into that activity.

Sourced from Irish Independent, Irish Times, House of the Oireachtas; additional content by WARC staff