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Drinking Culture

Public health charities call for reform of Sale of Alcohol Bill

The legislation has put forward a major modernisation of Ireland’s licencing laws.

SEVERAL PUBLIC HEALTH charities with a focus on alcohol are calling for revisions to the proposed Sale of Alcohol Bill, which has put forward a major modernisation of Ireland’s licencing laws.

One element of the bill is to support the night-time economy by enabling bars to stay open an hour later until 12.30am seven nights a week.

The legislation also proposes creating new annual permits for late bars and nightclubs, which would replace special exemption orders.

Professor Tom Babor, a Professor Emeritus at the University of Connecticut’s Department of Public Health Sciences, has authored a report offering analysis of the costs and benefits of the bill.

The analysis points to potential risks of extending pub and club opening hours, including increased violence and excessive drinking.

Alcohol Action Ireland, the Irish Community Action on Alcohol Network and Alcohol Forum Ireland are hosting the launch of the report today at an event in Dublin.

In a statement, Chair of Alcohol Action Ireland Frank Murray warned that the bill could “result in increased alcohol harms and deaths in Ireland”, while CEO of Alcohol Forum Paula Leonard called for the bill to be revised “to avoid the mistakes of other countries where the promotion of the night-time economy has significantly increased harms from alcohol”.

Professor Babor said that the measures in the bill are liable to cause an increase in occurrences such as “alcohol-related disease, injuries, crime, public disorder, public safety and domestic violence”.

“When alcohol consumption becomes the central organizing feature, as reflected in the proposed Sale of Alcohol Bill, the social and recreational benefits can come at an enormous cost,” the professor emeritus said.

“Part of the cost is attributable to the need to improve urban management, urban infrastructure and public transportation services, environmental sanitation, personal security, police protection, emergency services and traffic management.

“Many cities in the UK, the EU and Australia have experienced epidemics of public intoxication following policy changes that were intended, just like the Sale of Alcohol Bill, to attract adults and youth to social and cultural events, but succeeded mainly in attracting youth out for a night of heavy drinking.

“A key question for the Republic of Ireland is whether the major changes proposed in the Sale of Alcohol Bill are likely to facilitate epidemics of binge drinking that have major implications for public health and social well-being.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

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