Diageo Ireland chief steps down from anti-alcohol abuse campaign board

Health Minister Leo Varadkar has welcomed the decision by the head of Diageo Ireland to step down from the board of the 'Stop Out-of-Control Drinking' campaign.

A statement from David Smith said that he is pulling out after board members were put under pressure because of a perceived lack of independence with Diageo on the board.

The company's involvement in the campaign had provoked controversy - however it will continue to provide funding for it.

Minister Varadkar praised Mr Smith's decision.

"I think it's welcome that Diageo are stepping back from that campaign," he said.

"I don't think it's appropriate that the drinks industry should be actively involved in campaigns around public health for the obvious reason.

"Having that said, there has been no attempt by that group - they haven't contacted the Department of Health or the government, they haven't sought our support or endorsement."

Social campaigner and founder of Spunout.ie, Ruairi McKiernan, said that Diageo should not still be funding the campaign.

"The DNA, the architecture, the framework, the governance behind it remain the same," he said.

"Now obviously the...governance might change slightly - but the funding source remains the same, the thinking that went into designing the much-criticised adverts remain the same.

"And there are no medics on the board - so there's three resignations to date, and really it's very hard to see where they can get the credibility from."

The remaining board of the Stop Out-of-Control Drinking campaign also welcomed Mr Smith's decision.

"David Smith’s carefully considered decision to leave the board of our campaign is yet another assertion of his determination that this Board will act in an entirely independent way, as we have from the start.," a statement from the group read.

"It is also a reiteration of our total independence to produce a national debate, and a strategy that will seek to change the drinking culture within Ireland.

"Finally, it is an opportunity for reasonable and fair-minded people to reassess any initial scepticism about the motives of this campaign."

"We … welcome that Diageo will continue to fund the campaign during this time, while playing no further part on the board itself."

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