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Mongan, Deirdre (2008) Alcohol Advisory Group reports. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 26, Summer 2008, pp. 8-9.

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The Government Alcohol Advisory Group presented its report to the (then) Minister for Justice, Brian Lenihan, on 23 April 2008.1  This Group was set up to examine key aspects of the law governing the sale and consumption of alcohol. The issues examined by the Group were:

• the increase in the number of supermarkets, convenience stores and petrol stations with off-licences, and the manner and conditions of sale of alcohol products in such outlets, including below-cost selling and special promotions;
• the increasing number of special exemption orders which permit longer opening hours being granted to licensed premises around the country; and
• the use, adequacy and effectiveness of existing sanctions and penalties, particularly those directed towards combating excessive and underage consumption.
The report highlights recent trends in alcohol consumption, public health and public order. It states that Ireland has one of the highest levels of alcohol consumption in the European Union, with levels in 2006 about 30% higher than the EU average. The number of people admitted to hospitals intoxicated or drunk rose to a peak in 2002, in line with a peak in alcohol consumption. Such admissions increased by 76% between 1997 and 2002. In 2006, approximately 60,000 proceedings were taken under the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994.
Recommendations of the Group
The report makes thirty-one recommendations, under four headings, including:
• The specific properties of alcohol are recognised in public policy-making and the consequences which flow from that recognition be taken into account in decision-making across the public policy spectrum.
• An overall national strategy on alcohol is developed and implemented with a coherent approach across government departments and other public bodies.
Sale of alcohol
• Applicants for a wine-retailer’s off-licence are required to produce a District Court Certificate to the Revenue Commissioners.
• The grounds on which objection may be made to the grant of District Court Certificates for spirit, beer and wine off-licences are extended to include the suitability of licensed premises for the needs of local residents and the adequacy of the existing number of licensed premises in the neighbourhood.
• Off-sales of alcohol are restricted to the hours of 10.30 am to 10.00 pm, including Sundays, in the case of off-licences and mixed trading premises.
• Structural separation of alcohol products from non-alcohol products in mixed trading premises is introduced.
• The minimum age for selling alcohol in off-licences and mixed trading premises is increased to 21 years.
• A statutory provision to permit test purchasing of alcohol by persons under the age of 18 years is enacted.
• The District Court is authorised to insist upon an adequate CCTV system as a condition for the grant of a certificate, or renewal of a licence, in respect of an off-licence or mixed trading premises.
• Alcohol products are priced and sold on the basis of a unit price; this is intended to prohibit alcohol promotions and sales involving price discounts and ‘2 for 1’ offers.
Extended trading hours
• Special exemption orders granted to nightclubs and late bars are to comply with fire safety standards and determination by the Court of maximum occupancy levels.
• The current statutory extended time limit of 2.30 am is changed to 2.00 am.
• The District Court does not grant a special exemption order for any premises unless satisfied that the special occasion will be conducted in a manner that will not cause undue inconvenience or nuisance to people living in the locality, or create an undue threat to public order or safety.
• Premises with theatre licences are subject to the general time limits applicable to public houses.
• The granting of general exemption orders which permit early opening for premises located in the vicinity of fairs and markets is repealed.
Sanctions, penalties and enforcement
• Fines for offences involving drunkenness, disorderly conduct and the provision of alcohol to under-age people is increased towards maximum District Court levels.
• A minimum closure period of two days is applied in the case of temporary closure orders for a first offence.
While these recommendations have been put forward to the Minister, they may not all be drafted into legislation. When announcing the establishment of the Group, the Minister also signalled that work would continue on the drafting of a comprehensive Sale of Alcohol Bill, which is included in the government’s legislation programme for 2008. This Bill will modernise and streamline 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 provisions.
1. Government Alcohol Advisory Group (2008) Report of the Government Alcohol Advisory Group. Dublin: Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.
Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
Issue Title
Issue 26, Summer 2008
Page Range
pp. 8-9
Health Research Board
Issue 26, Summer 2008
Accession Number
HRB (Available)

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