Home > Dail Eireann debate. Covid-19 (Health): statements [Alcohol].

[Oireachtas] Dail Eireann debate. Covid-19 (Health): statements [Alcohol]. (17 Jun 2020)

External website: https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/debates/debate/dail/2...

…Deputy Thomas Pringle: On alcohol and alcohol sales during lockdown, it was distressing for me to read of sales of alcohol having increased because pubs have been closed. It is a bit horrific, particularly when one considers that there are 88 alcohol-related deaths per month and that more than 200,000 children live in homes where parental alcohol misuse is a problem. A national campaign was started by the alcohol forum in Donegal and the Irish community action on alcohol network is entitled "Deliver change on drink deliveries". Interestingly, there has been a 15% increase in online sales of alcohol during the pandemic. Will the Minister support the aims of that campaign and change the process for the online purchase of alcohol? There are protections for people who buy alcohol over the counter but what is happening in respect of people who buy alcohol online and have it delivered to their home? 

Deputy Simon Harris: I thank the Deputy for raising the important issue of alcohol use. There has been a lot of talk about Covid-19 and it is very important that it is discussed. However, just beneath the surface there is much hidden pain and additional impact. Alcohol use is one of the causes of that pain. We all are or were being asked to stay at home, and home is a safe place for many of us, but some people, including many children, are not in a safe environment when they close the hall door. We know that may be the case in homes where there is an alcohol or other addiction. I very much welcome the work of the alcohol forum in Donegal and would be very pleased to hear from it and support its work in any way I can. There were 1,000 days of stalling before we managed to pass the Public Health (Alcohol) Act through the Houses. Its passage was hard won. In fairness, we listened and made improvements to it to try to get it right. It was the first time in the history of the State for public health legislation dealing with alcohol to be passed. The only thing this House had previously ever done in the context of alcohol was to stick a levy on it or decide on budget day how much excise to put on it. We had never used public health legislation for alcohol and I am very proud that we did so in the previous Oireachtas. One of the disappointments is that we could not deal effectively with the online piece. There were many debates in the Dáil and Seanad on the matter, as well matters relating to Europe and so on. I would set this new Oireachtas the challenge of dealing with that issue, perhaps working with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and at a European level. There is a vulnerability because the protections we put in place in the context of offline alcohol sales are not yet in place online. I would welcome the views of Deputy Harkin, as a former MEP, on how we can work on this issue at European level. That is a challenge for us.

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