Taoiseach and Minister for Justice announce new measures to tackle binge drinking and public disorder

The Taoiseach, Mr Bertie Ahern, T.D. and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr Brian Lenihan, T.D., today announced new legislative measures to tackle the increasing availability and excessive consumption of alcohol, and the public order problems caused by binge drinking.

The draft legislation, the Intoxicating Liquor/Public Order Bill 2008, proposes the reform of both licensing law and public order legislation in response to recommendations contained in the Report of the Alcohol Advisory Group also being published today. Drafting of the Bill is at an advanced stage with a view to its enactment before the Oireachtas rises for the summer break.

Speaking at today’s event the Taoiseach and Minister Lenihan both congratulated Dr Gordon Holmes, chair of the Advisory Group, and the other members of the Group for prompt delivery of an excellent report. The legislative measures announced today are the first step in implementing the Group’s recommendations and taking action to deal with the problem of binge drinking and the public disorder it causes.
 
Speaking at the launch, the Taoiseach said: "The State has a key role to play in ensuring that licensing laws and public order legislation is adequate and effective. Parents too have an indispensable role. Nor should we overlook the importance of personal responsibility.

As a society, we need to take responsibility both collectively and individually in order to address the problems arising from excessive consumption of alcohol. We need to examine our acceptance of heavy drinking and the signal that this is sending, particularly to our young people.

Government has a clear responsibility to ensure that our laws and regulations are supportive of cultural change in this area. The draft Bill published today is a concrete example of the Government’s determination to do its part in changing attitudes to alcohol consumption."

Also speaking at today’s event, Minister Lenihan said: "The legislative measures published today are a response to a very significant problem of alcohol abuse which is leading to public disorder.  They address the public order and licensing aspects of our national problem with drink.

The strategy underpinning the draft legislation is one which tackles the increased visibility and availability of alcohol through retail outlets with off-licences while tightening the conditions under which premises with on-licences qualify for special exemption orders permitting them to remain open beyond normal licensing hours.

I know that the Government’s concerns in relation to binge drinking and alcohol-related harm are widely shared and I look forward to support in both Houses of the Oireachtas for speedy enactment of the proposals contained in this  Bill."

The Minister also stated that while this draft Bill addressed the Government’s immediate concerns, the Government Legislation Programme provides for publication of a comprehensive Sale of Alcohol Bill later this year. This larger Bill, at present in the course of being drafted, will modernise and streamline all the laws relating to the sale and consumption of alcohol by repealing the Licensing Acts 1833 to 2004, as well as the Registration of Clubs Acts 1904 to 2004, and replacing them with updated and streamlined provisions.

Details of the draft Bill and the Advisory Group’s Report are available on the Department’s website (www.justice.ie).

23 April 2008

Note to Editors

The principal proposals contained in the Intoxicating Liquor/ Public Order Bill 2008 are as follows:

Sale of alcohol

One of the important concerns addressed in the Report of the Advisory Group is the greatly increased visibility and availability of alcohol, especially in premises engaged in off-sales. In response to these concerns, the draft Bill makes provision for the following:

  • off-sales of alcohol will be permitted only between 10.30 a.m. (7.30am at present) and 10.00 p.m. (12.30 p.m. to 10.00 p.m. on Sundays);
  • wine off-licences, which may be obtained at present directly from the Revenue Commissioners, will in future require a District Court certificate; 
  • the grounds on which objection may be made to the grant of a District Court certificate for an off-licence will be extended to include consideration of the needs of the neighbourhood and the adequacy of the existing number of off-licences in the area;
  • in future, alcohol products must be displayed and sold in supermarkets, convenience stores, etc. in a specified area which is structurally separated from the rest of the premises (where separation is not possible, alcohol products must be displayed and sold from behind a counter;
  • test purchasing of alcohol products will be introduced; this will apply to both on-licences and off-licences.

Opening hours

The draft Bill proposes several reforms to existing licensing law provisions which permit the District Court to grant special exemption orders to nightclubs and late bars. These changes are intended to improve safety and combat public disorder and anti-social behaviour. The principal changes are as follows:

  • a new statutory requirement to have a CCTV system in place in premises where special occasions to which the public are admitted are taking place, i.e. nightclubs and late bars;
  • a strengthening of the public order ground on which the Gardaí may object to the grant of an order or its duration (the District Court shall not grant any such orders unless the premises concerned complies fully with fire safety standards);
  • As regards premises with theatre licences, the current anomaly whereby such premises may remain open beyond normal licensing hours without having to obtain special exemption orders is being addressed; in future, such premises may only remain open after normal closing times if a special exemption order has been obtained from the District Court.

Public order

The draft Bill contains two important proposals designed to address the risk of public disorder: the first will permit a member of the Garda Síochána to seize any bottle or container which is in the possession of a person who appears to be under the age of 18 and which the member suspects, with reasonable cause, contains alcohol which is being consumed, or intended to be consumed, by a person under 18 years in a place other than a private residence.

The second will permit the seizure of bottles and containers containing alcohol where there is a reasonable apprehension of public disorder and which may be used to require a person to leave the place concerned in a peaceable and orderly manner. 

Alcohol promotions and discount sales

There is widespread public concern at present in relation to alcohol promotions and reduced price sales and discounts. The draft Bill provides for the making of detailed regulations to prohibit or restrict such practices, whether by individual licensees or any other person, e.g. promotions organised centrally by supermarket multiples. Regulations may also be made which will prohibit events or activities which are intended or likely to encourage excessive consumption of alcohol.