Diageo out of alcohol awareness campaign
GUINNESS' parent company Diageo has withdrawn from an alcohol awareness campaign a month after it was established.
Country director David Smith confirmed today that he is stepping down from the board of the Stop Out-of-Control Drinking campaign.
It is the fourth resignation to hit the group, headed by Barnardos chief executive Fergus Finlay, since it was established last month.
Up to 12,000 people have signed up to the campaign which is funded by Diageo to the tune of €1m over the first year.
"Many board members have been subjected to unwarranted pressure because of a perceived lack of independence given the involvement of Diageo," Mr Smith said this morning.
"To ensure the board members can work to the best of their abilities and carry out the objectives of the campaign, I will no longer sit on the board."
Health Minister Leo Varadkar welcomed Diageo's withdrawal.
"I don't think it is appropriate that the drinks industry should be actively involved in campaigns around public health," he said.
Speaking on RTE Radio One, Mr Smith said that "I am acting to make sure that a lack of independence is removed".
"I'm glad we got involved in the campaign. I may not have sat on the board if I had known it was going to cause some controversy," he said.
It is the latest public relations setback for Diageo after it stopped organising the annual Arthur's Day last year following much criticism.
St Patrick's Mental Health Services withdrew from the campaign in recent days following the earlier resignations from the board of Dr Ciara Kelly and Krystian Fikert of mental health care organisation MyMind.
"It is an opportunity for reasonable and fair-minded people to reassess any initial scepticism about the motives of this campaign," a campaign spokesman said.