Independent Senator Frances Black has criticised the drinks industry lobby for "working so hard over the summer months in making one last attempt to weaken" controversial new alcohol legislation.

The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill would bring in minimum unit pricing, cancer warnings on alcohol product packaging and introduce segregating alcohol sales in shops.

The legislation has had a lengthy journey through the Oireachtas, as it took two years to pass through the Seanad.

It was scheduled for debate this week but it emerged yesterday morning that it was withdrawn to allow consideration of new amendments. The debate was postponed until next week. 

TDs have tabled amendments including calls for the removal of the requirement to have warnings about alcohol causing cancer on all alcohol products.

Yesterday, Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall claimed TDs and Senators have used "spurious reasons" to delay the bill as a result of pressure from the powerful drinks industry lobby.

Senator Black, who has campaigned for measures to tackle the dangers posed by alcohol to society, expressed her concerns about the delays with the bill.

Speaking as the Seanad returned from its summer recess, Ms Black pointed out that it is over 1,000 days since the bill was first introduced.

She said she is "seriously concerned about how the industry have been working so hard over the summer months making one last shameful attempt to weaken the bill and remove some of its key provisions."

Ms Black recalled how it was agreed last November in the Seanad that cancer warnings would be part of the legislation.

She said these warnings are import as "public knowledge on the empirical proven link between alcohol and cancers is is shockingly low". Citing research she said that 80% of people in Ireland do not know that alcohol causes cancer.

Ms Black said serious health issues are not just caused by very high levels of drinking as they can be caused by frequent moderate use of alcohol. She also said that one glass of wine a night can increase your risk of getting breast cancer.

The Independent Senator asked the political parties to "stand firm and put public awareness and health above profit."

Seanad leader Jerry Buttimer said the bill was not delayed by Government in the lower house. He said Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the bill is a "high priority of the Government to have it enacted".

He said he understands it will be before the Dáil next week and back before the Seanad at the earliest opportunity.

Mr Buttimer added:"You are right we need to have that conversation about the misuse of alcohol."

It is now expected that the controversial legislation will be debated in the Dáil next Wednesday.