Home > Seanad Eireann debate: Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2011: Second Stage.

[Oireachtas] Seanad Eireann debate: Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2011: Second Stage. (30 Jun 2011)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/seanad...

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter):

….Part 5 introduces a new provision in our licensing laws. Section 14 provides for the preparation and publication of codes of practice for the purpose of setting standards for the display, sale, supply, advertising, promotion or marketing of intoxicating liquor.

I stress that such codes are intended as a practical mechanism to promote compliance with the licensing laws by licensees. They are not intended and will not operate as an alternative to Garda enforcement. Nevertheless, while breach of a code will not be an offence, it will constitute a ground on which an objection can be lodged by the Garda to renewal of the licensee’s licence. It will then be a matter for the court to decide under what conditions the licence will be renewed. There is scope for using the code of practice mechanism to deal with aspects of licensing law which are difficult to specify in legislation. For example, it can be difficult to define aspects of marketing or promotional activities in a sufficiently watertight and comprehensive manner to restrict or prohibit them. However, practices which generally tend to lead to excessive alcohol consumption could be addressed under an appropriate code. Staff training is recognised as another important area. However, it can be difficult to specify comprehensive standards in legislation. Incorporating such standards in a code could provide a more practical and flexible way of dealing with the matter.


Before concluding on this point, I refer to the existing code of practice on the display and sale of alcohol products in mixed trading premises. This code applies to supermarkets, convenience stores and other mixed trading outlets and it has been implemented by the mixed trading sector as a voluntary alternative to the structural separation provisions in section 9 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008. The mixed trading sector has established a body known as Responsible Retailing of Alcohol in Ireland, with Mr. Padraic White as chairman, to oversee implementation of the code and to report the results of an independent compliance audit to the Minister on an annual basis. The results of the compliance audits have been broadly positive to date and the previous Government was sufficiently satisfied with the progress made that it did not feel it necessary to implement section 9 of the 2008 Act. Mr. White is due to submit his next compliance report to me in September next, and I intend to seek the views of interested bodies and the public on the effectiveness of the code before deciding whether to give effect to the statutory provisions in the 2008 Act.


MEAS, the Mature Enjoyment of Alcohol in Society, was established in 2002 by the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland. The voluntary MEAS code requires drinks producers, distributors and licensees to ensure that alcohol is sold and promoted in a socially responsible manner, and only to those over 18 years of age. I was surprised and disappointed by the announcement on 20 June by the Licensed Vintners’ Association, LVA, and the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland, VFI, of their decision to withdraw their support from the code and to cease their membership of MEAS. I regard this as a backward step and find it difficult to understand. It was my belief that both organisations…….


It was my belief that both organisations truly had as an objective the encouragement of social responsibility in the sale and consumption of alcohol. The announcement made is open to the interpretation that they no longer support this important objective. It would be most unfortunate if that were the case. I urge both organisations, in the public interest, to reconsider their decision……...


Senator Denis O’Donovan:I welcome the Minister to the House. We on this side of the House are broadly in favour of this Bill, although we may table some amendments on Committee Stage……..

I praise the Minister for his strong statement on the change to the intoxicating liquor legislation. He is correct in firing a warning shot over the Vintners Federation of Ireland. It has withdrawn its support for MEAS, which is a retrograde step. The Minister’s statement will send a clear message to the federation. It is a powerful lobby group and it lobbied us when I was a Deputy and Senator. It has great ways of getting around us.


I recognise that we have a serious issue with alcohol in this country, probably more so than any other country in Europe. I am partial to a few drinks myself, but to say we do not recognise it would be rather silly. It applies more to the younger generation. When I was a college student I would have a couple of pints once a fortnight. We did not have the money to have more and the most one got in Cork city was a pint of Beamish or Murphy’s. Other drinks were not available.


Now there are shots. I was a 21st birthday party recently where people were going round with trays of shots. I am sure if I had imbibed them all I would have been shot myself. As a society we have to seriously examine where we are going with alcohol, particularly vulnerable young people. Most people are drinking at 15, 16 or 17 years of age even though they should not be. We must have a responsible attitude and I welcome what the Minister said today. It was very appropriate and necessary……..


Seanad Éireann Debate

30 June 2011
Vol. 208 No. 15

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