Friday 6 March 2015

The sock puppet state in action

Government self-lobbying doesn't get much more blatant than this.

The Irish government has put forward a bill—the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill—which includes minimum pricing and various other temperance policies. Alcohol Action Ireland, a state-funded lobby group, has been pushing for this legislation for some time and has now set up another lobby group to campaign for its passage through parliament.

The Alcohol Health Alliance is new [sic] initiative to support the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, a new piece of legislation that has the potential to significantly reduce the harm caused by alcohol consumption in Ireland, has been launched today.

The Alcohol Health Alliance will work together to:

Highlight the rising levels of alcohol-related health harm

Propose evidence-based solutions to reduce this harm

Campaign for the implementation of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015

Advocate for positive action to address the damage caused by alcohol misuse

The Alcohol Health Alliance, which was set up by The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, and Alcohol Action Ireland, will bring together a wide range of public health campaigners including medical professionals, NGOs and charities whose mission is to reduce the damage caused to health by alcohol misuse.

Alcohol Action Ireland is a 'charity' which acknowledges funding from Ireland's Health Service Executive. It is not clear from its accounts how much it receives from the state, but it gets a laughably small amount from public donations (just €200). Indeed, it gets just 0.07 per cent of its income from voluntary contributions. This is what passes for a charity in the sock puppet state.

This government front group has campaigned for the legislation to be put on the books despite a conspicuous lack of support for minimum pricing amongst the public. They have now created a new sock puppet to act as its chief cheerleader.

As in the UK, the Irish government and its quangos are well practised at these kind of campaigns. In the splendidly titled World Health Organisation document—Making Unpopular Decisions in Public Health—Irish NGOs explained their tactics (in this instance, for the smoking ban).

Tactics and strategy to ensure success: the Irish way

Political consensus: all parties reached a consensus that action was required. The Minister for Health got passionately involved in the cause and made tobacco the top item on his agenda. Thus, the only blame the decision-makers actually got was that they were not implementing quickly enough.

Publicity campaigning: there was huge mass-media interest, with features, whole pages and discussion programmes. A separate mass-media campaign focused on the support for people who want to quit.

Preparations were made to confront business, with plans for how to do this, so they did not get too strong.

Mobilized opposition: there was a strong alliance of nongovernmental organizations, prominent in organizing actions, with which the health authorities linked up in advance. They mobilized considerable mass-media work and covered quite a wide variety of backgrounds in the public consensus-building.
Public opinion surveys were not conducted before the decision was launched. It was a purely political judgement that the health authority must act on smoking in workplaces. Surveys were carried out only after the launch and revealed that most of the population approved.

If you are in any doubt that 'public health' is an elitist, undemocratic political movement, you should read the whole document. From its title on, it is remarkably candid.

It is no wonder politicians need to create astro-turf groups to campaign for decisions that have already been made by the elite. They are openly contemptuous of the public, as one member of the Irish parliament, Mary Mitchell O’Connor, made clear today.

A south Dublin TD has expressed her “alarm” at the volume of messages she has had from constituents against Government plans to end the availability of cheap alcohol, including some from parents arguing their teenagers should have access to inexpensive drink.

Mary Mitchell O’Connor, Fine Gael TD for Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, was speaking at the announcement of a new alliance of health professionals and NGOs, the Alcohol Health Alliance.

Its primary aim will be to support the Government’s Public Health (Alcohol) Bill to be published in coming months and enacted by the end of the year.

Among its key measures will be the introduction of a minimum per-unit price for alcohol to end the sale of cheap alcohol.

Ms Mitchell O’Connor said she had been “getting loads of messages against the Bill” and appealed for constituents to contact her supporting it.

“I have been alarmed at some of the messages, including from parents. I have had fathers contacting me arguing that their 16-year-old daughters should be allowed access to cheap drink. That is how daft some of the thinking is out there on this.

She said she had also received personally abusive messages from constituents saying the Bill was interfering with their freedom to pursue lifestyles as they wished. 

 “They are annoyed they might have to pay more for alcohol. It does surprise me when you think of the sort of constituency I represent.”

Poor bewildered woman. You get the impression she thinks politicians should be able to elect a new public which, in a way, is what the sock puppet state does.


Christopher Snowdon said...

Mary Mitchell O’Connor does not represent any constituency other than the pseudo-intellectual establishment elite of which she is a member along with the rest of the useless mouths she sits alongside, the mainstream media, the upper echelons of the professions and the state funded NGOs.

Collectively they form a clique that has no true mandate and they stick together to suppress dissent. I am not a heads on stakes person but we do need a revolution in politics to rid us of these arrogant social engineers. Their dominance is unhealthy for our society and our democracy.

Christopher Snowdon said...

They all work with a #commonpurpose.