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Home > Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 150 - Liquor licensing laws [31949/16].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Written answer 150 - Liquor licensing laws [31949/16]. (25 Oct 2016)

URL: http://oireachtasdebates.oireachtas.ie/Debates%20A...


150. Deputy Michael Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the measures currently being carried out in relation to reducing under-age drinking; if she will consider imposing a coding system whereby all alcohol sold would have a unique code and when sold the buyer would have to sign their details, therefore making consumers responsible for any alcohol they purchase.  [31949/16]

 

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): The position is that there are statutory safeguards in place relating to the sale to and the consumption of intoxicating liquor by persons under the age of 18 years. The law in this area was amended most recently by the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008 which amended the Licensing Acts and the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 with the aim of tackling excessive consumption of intoxicating liquor as well public disorder and antisocial behaviour.

 

Under the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1988 (as amended), it is an offence for a licence holder to sell or deliver, or permit another person to sell or deliver, intoxicating liquor to a person under 18 years of age. Moreover, it is an offence for a person to purchase intoxicating liquor for delivery to, or consumption by, a person under the age of 18 years or to deliver intoxicating liquor to such a person, except where the intoxicating liquor is to be consumed in a private residence with the explicit consent of the young person's parent or guardian.

 

Under the 1988 Act it is also illegal for a person under 18 years to buy intoxicating liquor or to consume it in any place outside their home (or in another person's home where they are present by right or with permission). Where a Garda suspects that a person is under 18 years and that person, or anyone accompanying that person, is in possession of intoxicating liquor for the purpose of consuming it in a place other than a private dwelling, the Garda may seek an explanation and if not satisfied with the reply, he or she may seize the intoxicating liquor if it is not handed over voluntarily.

 

The Garda National Age Card scheme is an important proof-of-age mechanism in relation to the sale of intoxicating liquor. The scheme is administered by An Garda Síochána and has facilitated the Gardaí, in cooperation with the licensed trade, to address and combat underage consumption of intoxicating liquor. The 1988 Act, as amended, also makes provision for the test purchasing of intoxicating liquor. The primary objective of the scheme is to enable the Gardaí to target licensed premises which are suspected of engaging in illegal sales of intoxicating liquor to persons under 18 years of age.

 

The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 (as amended) also permits An Garda Síochána to seize bottles or containers containing intoxicating liquor where there is a reasonable apprehension of public disorder or damage to property and require a person to leave the place concerned in a peaceable and orderly manner. Incidents of public disorder and anti-social behaviour arising from the abuse of intoxicating liquor are investigated by the Gardaí and dealt with in an appropriate manner, including by caution, fixed charge penalty notices or commencement of proceedings.

 

As regards introduction of a coding system along the lines suggested by the Deputy, implementation of such a measure and its enforcement could be expected to encounter significant difficulties in practice. Apart from the administrative costs involved in recording purchasers' details at point of sale, practical difficulties would also arise at retail level in cases where several individual containers are packaged together for sale, e.g. an enclosed six-pack of bottles; a plastic-wrapped tray of cans; or a wooden box containing bottles of wine. This raises the question of whether a unique code could be attached earlier in the supply or distribution chains rather than at the point of sale. However, this would create logistical difficulties for importers and distributors and in the case of imports from EU countries, any additional labelling requirements would be regarded as infringing internal market rules relating to free movement of such products.

 

For the sake of completeness, I should add that the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015, which falls within the area of responsibility of the Minister for Health and is currently awaiting Committee Stage in the Seanad, contains proposals for restrictions in relation to sponsorship and the advertising of intoxicating liquor and confers powers on the Minister for Health to make regulations for the purpose of prohibiting or restricting the sale of intoxicating liquor in certain circumstances.

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