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Home > Seanad Eireann debate. Alcohol sales legislation.

[Oireachtas] Seanad Eireann debate. Alcohol sales legislation. (21 Apr 2015)

External website: http://oireachtasdebates.oireachtas.ie/debates%20a...


Senator Colm Burke: I welcome the Minister of State. The issue I raise is the failure to commence section 9 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008 which provides that premises selling alcohol and other goods must establish a separate area for the sale of alcohol, including a separate entrance inside the premises. The section has not been commenced.

 

High levels of alcohol consumption are causing significant health problems. For example, a recent report noted an increase in liver disease among young people. Health problems associated with alcohol consumption will increase unless we tackle the issue of excessive alcohol consumption. One measure would be to provide for a clearly defined and segregated alcohol section in retail units that sell alcohol and other goods. I ask the Minister of State to clarify the reasons section 9 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008 has not been commenced.

 

Deputy Michael Ring: I thank the Senator for raising this issue. It is appropriate that we are discussing alcohol control measures during Action on Alcohol Week. As the Senator may be aware, events and conferences are being held this week, facilitated by the Alcohol Forum, to raise awareness of the problems caused by alcohol and advance debate and mobilise communities to reduce Ireland's alcohol harm. Initiatives such as Action on Alcohol Week are crucial in raising awareness of the damage caused by the misuse of alcohol, changing our attitudes to alcohol and reducing our levels of harmful drinking. The Government supports this initiative and the Minister for Health will speak at the Alcohol Forum national conference tomorrow.

 

Most Irish adults drink too much and many drink dangerously. This has a significant impact on society and the economy through greater illness and higher health costs, public order and violent offences, road traffic collisions, injuries and absences from work. It is also associated with many suicides and instances of rape, domestic violence and child abuse.

 

Our alcohol problem is serious and decisive and innovative action is required to address it. In February the Government approved and published the general scheme of the public health (alcohol) Bill. This legislation forms part of a comprehensive suite of measures to reduce excessive patterns of alcohol consumption, as set out in the steering group's report on a national substance misuse strategy. The aim is to reduce alcohol consumption in Ireland to 9.1 litres per person per annum by 2020 and reduce the harm associated with alcohol. This legislation is the most far-reaching proposed by any Government, with alcohol misuse being addressed for the first time as a public health measure.

 

Structural separation for alcohol products in mixed trading outlets is provided for in section 9 of Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008 which comes within the remit of the Department of Justice and Equality. This section provides that all alcohol products sold in supermarkets, convenience stores and similar outlets must be displayed and sold in a structurally separated part of the premises.  It has not been commenced to date. The Departments of Health and Justice and Equality are examining the best way to implement the provision on the separation of alcohol products from other products in mixed trading premises. As alcohol is no ordinary commodity, this should be reflected in the provisions for its availability and visibility in shops. The general availability of alcohol is an important indicator when assessing alcohol-related harm. The aim is to ensure alcohol products cannot be displayed like ordinary grocery products but will be subject to strict merchandising requirements. It is intended that the policy aims of the section will be achieved. The Department of Health is continuing to work on the drafting the Bill and it is expected that it will be published during this Dáil session.

 

Senator Colm Burke: I thank the Minister of State for a very comprehensive reply. The legislation was enacted in 2008, but seven years later no regulation has been put in place to implement it. I acknowledge that the Minister and the Government are working on the best way forward, but it might be helpful if the timeline was clarified. It is one thing to publish the Bill, but there is a need for a timeline for its enactment. I, therefore, ask the Minister of State to indicate if section 9 or similar legislation will be implemented by the end of the year.

 

Deputy Michael Ring: The Government is very committed to implementing the legislation. I recently attended a Cabinet meeting for a discussion on the abuse of alcohol. The Minister for Health, Deputy Leo Varadkar is committed to tackling this issue. Tomorrow he will speak at a conference in Dublin when I hope he will outline the Government's plans for the future. We all know that there is very serious abuse of alcohol. People accept that there is a need for it to be regarded with the same level of seriousness as drink driving or the smoking ban in order that it would not be seen to be acceptable for people to drink in the way they do. Excessive drinking creates problems in the home, for society and the health of individuals, while there is also a cost to the State. The Government is serious about tackling the problem and will bring forward legislation in the very near future. Knowing the Minister, once the legislation is published, he will bring quickly it to the Dáil and this House. I hope that will happen soon and will bring the Senator's concerns to his attention. I will also ask his officials to take note of what has said in this debate and respond to the Senator directly.

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