Israel-Palestine Conflict / Increasing VAT on sugary drinks to combat obesity
Thursday, 03 December 2015

During the Order of Business in the Seanad, I said:  It is always enlightening to listen to Senator Ó Murchú speak because he does so with concern and commitment. I have a difficulty, however, in that every time we seek to solve problems in other parts of the world we seem to be saying what they should be doing..

I have a difficulty with that and especially in the case of Israel and Palestine. Palestine has continued to say it does not recognise the existence of Israel. It was continually bombing Israel, so it is very difficult to blame Israel for reacting in that way. I am not defending everything it does, but we should be careful to allow a balanced discussion to take place on that basis.

There is one other topic on which I would like the Leader to facilitate a debate. There is a big concern about obesity, although not just in Ireland as it is throughout the western world. In Britain they are now talking about introducing a sugar tax. We should use the carrot rather than the stick. If we are going to solve the problem of young people consuming so many sugary drinks, rather than taxing such beverages we should reduce the VAT on non-sugary drinks. A number of Irish firms produce such products.Sometimes they are water-based, wheat-based, grass-based and fruit-based products which are very healthy.

However, we have a 23% VAT rate on them. Rather than automatically saying we are going to increase the price of unhealthy drinks, we should reduce the tax on healthy drinks. That would give us a much better chance of coaxing and convincing young people in particular to look for a healthier way of feeding themselves and avoiding some of the obesity occurring around this country.

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