Home > Open letter: an urgent call for this government to fully assess the implications of increased alcohol availability.

Alcohol Action Ireland. [Alcohol Action Ireland] Open letter: an urgent call for this government to fully assess the implications of increased alcohol availability. (09 Feb 2024)

External website: https://alcoholireland.ie/open-letter-an-urgent-ca...

To: An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, TD, Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin, TD
Minister for the Environment, Climate, Communications and Transport, Eamon Ryan, TD

As health, social and community organisations and advocates (74), we are coming together to voice our strong opposition to proposed measures in the Sale of Alcohol bill that will dramatically increase the number of venues serving alcohol, as well as significantly extending the opening hours of pubs, bars and nightclubs. 

Ireland has just begun to make tentative progress towards the goal of reducing alcohol consumption with drinking levels falling slowly on a population level thanks to the measures of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act, 2018 (PHAA). 

The important, evidence-based measures contained within the PHAA were debated for many years, were hard fought and won in the face of significant industry opposition. Its modest regulations are still not fully implemented despite this being a commitment in the Programme for Government. Now, however, the government appears set to undo all the good work achieved over many years by swiftly passing a bill to further liberalise the sale of alcohol across the country. 

That this is being done without carrying out a Health Impact Assessment, as recommended by the Joint Oireachtas Committee for Justice who carried out pre-legislative scrutiny of the bill – and even by those who support the measures – is inexcusable.  

This alarming change of tack in alcohol policy has been done completely in the face of a comprehensive body of evidence and particularly highlighted by the World Health Organisation in a recent report that shows extending alcohol availability and trading hours increases: 

  • the burden on public services such as ambulance services, Emergency Departments and Gardaí.  
  • crime 
  • domestic violence 
  • sexual violence 
  • road deaths 

For example: International evidence suggests that a one-hour extension of alcohol trading hours is likely to lead to: 

Furthermore, it does not solve the problem of crowds spilling onto the streets at closing time; it merely shifts the problem later into the night. 

 These are some of the immediate consequences and does not consider other health harms from increased alcohol consumption such as cancer, heart and liver disease and very substantial mental health problems. Children and families will also bear the brunt of this proposed bill. At least 200,000 children are currently growing up with problem alcohol use in the home and Ireland is estimated to have a prevalence rate of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) of 2.8-7.4% of the population –  the third highest rate in the world.  

The proposals in this bill will have impacts across multiple government departments with long lasting consequences. Government and politicians must operate in evidence-based policy making and consider these issues with full facts, not just the views of vested interests. At the very least, fully costed data is required for planning across services.  

A Health Impact Assessment is a practical approach used to judge the potential health effects of a proposed policy, programme or project on a population, particularly on vulnerable or disadvantaged groups.  

This bill also presents an opportunity to make statutory provision for the systematic collation of relevant data around alcohol and its harms. Once we measure it, we can manage and ameliorate.   

Alcohol is an addictive, psychoactive, toxic, carcinogen which already causes four deaths every day, necessitates the use of 1500 hospital beds daily, as well as bringing devastation to families, disruption to workplaces and placing an enormous burden on our public services of at least €3.7 billion annually. 

We the undersigned are urgently and collectively calling on this government to do the right thing and carry out a Health Impact Assessment of this legislation without further delay. 


See also: Irish Examiner - Sixty-five groups unite to warn Government against liberalising Ireland's alcohol laws - Health, social, and community organisations have written to the Government to voice their opposition to plans to increase the number of venues serving alcohol and the opening hours of pubs, clubs, and nightclubs. In a letter to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Tánaiste Micheál Martin, and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan, the 65 organisations, academics, and advocates urge the Government to urgently assess the implications of increased alcohol availability which would arise from the proposed measures in the Sale of Alcohol Bill...

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