Home > Dail Eireann debate. Priority question 3 - Alcohol sales legislation [7626/17].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Priority question 3 - Alcohol sales legislation [7626/17]. (16 Feb 2017)

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3. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which the licensing laws are being enforced and if any review of this matter is proposed.  [7626/17] 

Deputy Jim O'Callaghan: My question concerns the enforcement of liquor licensing laws and whether the Minister has any plans to review it. I am asking the question in the context of a tragic event that befell a young man called Brian Regan from Loughrea who was killed in December 2015. It is a general question about licensing laws. 

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: I am not aware of the particular case referred to by the Deputy. I am not sure what element of the law is relevant to the case. The Deputy might point it out to me. We have a very large body of legislation relating to alcohol. There was a recent joint ministerial meeting on road safety. Clearly, the enforcement of legislation relating to drink driving has been centre stage. I am sure the Deputy is very conscious of the recent proposals to change the legislation. Enforcing the legislation is a priority for the gardaí. We are certainly making very big investments in terms of the resources and numbers of An Garda Síochána, including vehicles, all of which are relevant in terms of focusing on this. I have met with the senior Garda responsible for this area. It is a priority area for the coming year. Of course, we have all seen the dramatic rise in road deaths. It is a combination of drink driving, speed and use of mobile phones that has led to this rise. We must realise that we must repeat the messages for a new generation in terms of drink driving and the dreadful impact it has on people. 

Deputy Jim O'Callaghan: In fairness to the Tánaiste, she would not know the reason why I asked this question. I am asking it because I met with a man from Loughrea called James Regan who asked me to raise the issue of the licensing laws because of what happened to his son, Brian Regan, who was knocked down and killed by a car in December 2015 at 5.30 a.m. It was obviously a tragedy for him and his family. His father was concerned about the licensing laws. His son had been drinking from 7 p.m. that evening. Obviously, personal responsibility is an issue and he had responsibility for consuming alcohol himself but his father believes he was drinking late into the night in a licensed premises that was serving him alcohol when it was past closing time and the premises was not entitled to sell alcohol. He is not looking for inquiries. He is just anxious that the licensing laws we have are enforced. Most publicans do enforce them but it is important that when people come into public houses, they are under the supervision of the public house. We need to enforce the laws. 

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: That is an extremely tragic case. Unfortunately, there were many such cases last year when there was a considerable increase in deaths on our roads attributed to alcohol use. I take the Deputy's point that the enforcement of the law is extremely important. I emphasise that it is a priority area. It should be anyway but it is certainly a priority given the increasing number of deaths on our roads - primarily of young men aged between 18 and their late twenties. This is a particularly vulnerable group. I repeat that we need to repeat the road safety message and strengthen our legislation. The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, which is the first legislation dealing with health promotion in this area, is extremely important and gives the message from this House that there can be no ambivalence in this area. We are famous for our ambivalence about alcohol but there can be no ambivalence when it comes to drink driving. 

Deputy Jim O'Callaghan: Most publicans do honour and obey the law. It is also fair to say that if people are drinking, they are nearly better off drinking in a public house where they can be watched by the staff and a general assessment of whether they have had too much can be made. However, we must recognise the terrible ongoing effects alcohol can have on young men and the fact that it can lead to these tragic circumstances. Just because we presume that most of the licensing laws are obeyed should not prevent ongoing enforcement. I know An Garda Síochána takes the enforcement of the licensing laws seriously. We need to recognise that when somebody is not licensed serve alcohol, serving it to people late at night is dangerous. The licensing laws are there for a reason, not just for the licensed premises but to protect the public. People will keep drinking unless places close and we need to ensure the laws are enforced. 

Deputy Frances Fitzgerald: I can only agree with the Deputy. We all have work to do in this House in respect of the devastating impact of the misuse of alcohol and where it is linked to driving. We are seeing dreadful consequences for individuals and families and increased numbers. This is linked to the fact that there is a greater number of cars on our roads but it is primarily due to the fact that we seeing a combination of people, particularly young men, driving after drinking, speeding and using mobile phones. I compliment the father of that young man because it must be very hard to recover from that situation and promote the issues about which he is now speaking after having experienced such personal tragedy. We need to get on with the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill and continue the Road Safety Authority campaigns.

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