'Massive loophole' in alcohol licensing law


THE GOVERNMENT has left a "massive loophole" in recent alcohol licensing legislation by failing to control home delivery sales of drink, former PD leader Michael McDowell has said.

The lack of legislation on distance selling of alcohol meant that "a 12-year-old could ring up Superquinn and, if they had their hands on a parent's credit card, order as much drink as they liked and have it delivered to the house", he said.

Drink could be bought without the purchaser being present just as easily as ordering a pizza, he said. "It is an extraordinary situation and just one glaring example of a hole in the system."

While the Government was chasing off-licence owners to prevent them selling alcohol to children, the lack of restriction on distance selling made such a mockery of that policy that some off-licence owners might consider changing to distance selling, he told an audience of solicitors, off-licence owners, publicans and night club owners.

"Some of you might consider running a service while the law remains uncontrolled," he said.

Such loopholes were probably due to the piecemeal way legislation on alcohol had been enacted, and he admitted: "Everybody is guilty of that, including myself."

There needed to be a thorough and radical overhaul of all alcohol related legislation, he said.

Mr McDowell, a former minister for justice, said that despite strong public support for his proposal to introduce a cafe-bar licence, he could not get support from Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour or even some of the other PD TDs.

"Sinn Féin disliked me so much they couldn't even speak on the issue," he said.

Mr McDowell was speaking at the Griffith College Licensing Law Symposium in Dublin yesterday.

Constance Cassidy SC, who also spoke at the event, said the new Intoxicating Liquor Act put a heavy financial burden on off-licence owners.

Provisions which required convenience stores to have a separate divided area for alcohol sales meant they were likely not only to have to undertake building work, but to employ extra staff to man the cash registers.

Banning alcohol sales before 10.30am would not deter the binge drinker, she added.