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'Two or three glasses is not against the law': It's not illegal to drink in public places, Taoiseach tells Dáil

However, bye-laws prohibit the activity in many parts of the country.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaking in the Dáil chamber this afternoon
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaking in the Dáil chamber this afternoon
Image: Oireachtas TV

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has told the Dáil it is his understanding that it is not against the law to drink alcohol in public places. 

Varadkar was responding to a question from Independent TD Michael Healy Rae regarding the reopening of cafes and restaurants and the consumption of alcohol outdoors.

The Taoiseach said: “My understanding is that it’s not against the law. There may be bye-laws in certain counties and certain city areas, but in terms of national law drinking alcohol in a public place in Ireland is not illegal.

“Being drunk and disorderly is, that’s an entirely different thing, but just having the one pint, perhaps, or two or three glasses is not against the law.” 

As Varadkar alluded to, bye-laws do actually forbid the consumption of any alcohol across many of the places that have become popular drinking haunts during the coronavirus pandemic.

In Dublin city, drinking “any liquid containing alcohol” is banned in any place that the public has access to. The bye-laws specifically mention that it is banned in parks, beaches, green spaces, canals and riverbanks.

Similarly comprehensive bye-laws forbid drinking in many other cities and towns including Galway and Limerick.

The Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 outlines that it is an offence for a person to be so drunk in a public place that they could reasonably be presumed to be a danger to themselves or to anyone around them. 

If found guilty of this offence, a person could be liable to a class E fine and a member of An Garda Síochána can confiscate any alcohol the person may be carrying. 

It is also illegal for a licence holder to sell alcohol in a closed container, such as a can or bottle, for consumption off the premises in a place 100 metres from the premises. If a person purchases alcohol in this manner, they could be liable for a class E fine. 

Speaking in the Dáil today, Healy Rae said: “Taoiseach, what can you do, along with the Minister for Justice, to help whereby at present you are not to consume alcohol outside or near a premise from which it is purchased.

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“Can these laws be relaxed, or temporarily, even, to allow for the next weeks or months?”

As noted by Varadkar, there is no national legislation prohibiting drinking alcohol in public.

However, each local authority is entitled to pass bye-laws prohibiting the consumption of alcohol in a public place. 

Gardaí also have power under the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008 to seize alcohol in the possession of a child under the age of 18 where they have reasonable cause to believe that the alcohol will be consumed by a minor in a public place. 

Further information on drinking alcohol in public in Ireland can be found here.

With reporting by Céimin Burke

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