Alcohol “continues to hold a tight grip on our national character”, an Irish bishop has said.

Auxiliary Bishop Eamonn Walsh of Dublin made the remark as Ireland considers a bill that would restrict the sale and advertising of alcohol.

In a letter to the Irish Times he expressed “deep concern” that the bill could be weakened because of lobbying from drinks companies.

The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, first proposed two years ago, seeks to ban drinks companies’ sponsorship of sports events, limit advertising and introduce minimum pricing.

Bishop Walsh, vice-chair of the Irish bishops’ drugs initiative, has long been a vigorous supporter of the bill. The new Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, has made it a priority, saying “we need to face up to [the country’s alcohol problem] as a society”.

In his letter Bishop Walsh said: “The human devastation caused by alcohol has been a blight on our society for countless years, and one that the Catholic Church has challenged for generations.” He noted that a Capuchin priest, Fr Theobald Mathew, had led the 19th century temperance movement.

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