Noel Rock asked for less alcoholic beer to be sent to the Mansion House just as his Fianna Fáil rival was elected Lord Mayor
The Fine Gael TD claimed that it wasn't known who the Lord Mayor would be when he sent the letter, but it had been widely reported on the same day that Paul McAuliffe was due to take over the role.
Mr Rock, who was elected TD for Dublin North West in 2016, is expected to face a fierce battle against constituency rival Mr McAuliffe in this year's general election.
JOE understands that last June, Mr Rock wrote to Diageo to ask it to cut the amount of alcoholic beer it provided to the Mansion House by 25%, and replace a quarter of the allowance with non-alcoholic options instead. It is understood that Diageo, which makes Guinness, had already been providing alcohol-free options to the official residence on Dawson St.
For over six decades, the makers of Guinness have provided a free beer allowance to the Mansion House regardless of who is in office. The allowance is so that the Lord Mayor can provide guests with drinks. It is understood that the allowance is offered on the basis of strict guidelines, with Diageo stating that guests should be provided with two drinks each. The annual limit for the Mansion House is about 120 kegs. Alcohol-free beer is also provided.
The Dublin Inquirer reported last year that Niall Ring, the former Lord Mayor, had twice ran out of beer provided to him by Diageo. Mr Ring ran through his annual allowance of 120 kegs between June 2017 and January 2018. Diageo offered 30 more kegs, following a request from the Mansion House. This supply ran out in March 2018.
Following last May's local elections, it emerged on June 6 that Mr McAuliffe was likely to become Dublin city's 350th lord mayor. On the same day, Mr Rock wrote to Diageo and suggested that the company should no longer offer to top-up the alcohol allowance for the Mansion House, as it had done for Mr Ring the year before.
"The media coverage of last year’s top-ups was, I believe, bad for both Diageo’s image and for Dublin’s and should not be repeated," Mr Rock said.
The Fine Gael TD also suggested that "the allowance in future years should consist of 25% non-alcoholic drinks."
Mr Rock told JOE that he sent the letter on June 6, "before Mayor was known." It had been reported by June 6 that Mr McAuliffe was likely to be the first Fianna Fáil Lord Mayor in ten years following a draft agreement between Dublin City Councillors. Mr McAuliffe was formally elected to the position on the following day.
"I have been an advocate of alcohol-free products and think it’s a good idea. I’d be surprised if anybody had an issue with this," Mr Rock said.
Mr McAuliffe told JOE that the letter was "classic Noel."
"It's all about gimmicks," Mr McAuliffe said.
"I would imagine Diageo were probably bemused when they read the letter"
Mr McAuliffe said there had been a relationship between Guinness and the Mansion House since 1851, when Benjamin Guinness was elected the first Lord Mayor. He added that there was a similar arrangement between Diageo and Áras an Uachtaráin, regardless of who was in office.
Mr McAuliffe added that his own grandfather had worked for Guinness, and that after he passed away last November the Fianna Fáil politician had been invited to a Guinness event.
"Noel would have been far better [sending the letter] when he was a member of Dublin city council. Far better. Or, contacting the Mansion House. Obviously, he went direct to Diageo - a company that does not want to be dragged into politics," he said.
The Fianna Fáil candidate that he had always encouraged the groups which he invited to the Mansion House to bring public representatives, and that he understood that Mr Rock had been at Mansion House events where free beer provided by Diageo had been served.