Minister calls for curbs on alcohol sales after ‘massive failure’ before Christmas

Vigilance urged on St Patrick’s Day after State ‘paid very dear price’ for previous inaction

Limerick TD Patrick O’Donovan said: ‘Well before Christmas I suggested that we needed to address the volume and amount of alcohol that was on sale and the time frame by which off licences were allowed to sell alcohol, it was something that Nphet discussed, but it was something that was thrown out the window.’ File photograph: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

Limerick TD Patrick O’Donovan said: ‘Well before Christmas I suggested that we needed to address the volume and amount of alcohol that was on sale and the time frame by which off licences were allowed to sell alcohol, it was something that Nphet discussed, but it was something that was thrown out the window.’ File photograph: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

 

Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan has called for curbs on the sale of alcohol ahead of St Patrick’s Day to avoid a repeat of the Government’s “massive failure” to deal with sales in off-licences before Christmas.

Mr O’Donovan said: “We didn’t deal with the sale of alcohol before Christmas, we paid a very dear price for it.”

Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show he said: “Well before Christmas I suggested that we needed to address the volume and amount of alcohol that was on sale and the time frame by which off licences were allowed to sell alcohol, it was something that Nphet discussed, but it was something that was thrown out the window.”

“I was criticised, I was lampooned by some of my own political colleagues as something that wouldn’t work and we paid a very dear price for it.”

In the weeks either side of Christmas, reported Covid-19 cases rose from about 300 a day to more than 8,000 on January 8th.

On Monday, public health officials warned against people congregating on St Patrick’s Day to socialise or join protests that might infringe public health rules.

Hospital Report

Confirmed cases in hospital Confirmed cases in ICU
464 86

The National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) also said it did not want to see people gathering to drink in ways that risked transmitting Covid-19.

Prof Philip Nolan, the chair of the Nphet epidemiological modelling advisory group, said “now is not the time to be socialising, it’s just too risky,” adding that daily case figures were “static, if not increasing”.

On Tuesday, the Minister urged people to “drown the shamrock” with water and said that any licence holder who would sell “pints and cocktails” during protests “would want to have their head examined”.

“Any self-respecting licence holder that is going to stand inside a table tomorrow and hand out pints would want their head examined. You don’t need a licence to have a bit of cop on.”

Mr O’Donovan, who is Minister of State at the Office of Public Works, warned that when it came for licences to be renewed gardaí could object and “tell the judge this fella sold pints and cocktails in the middle of a protest”.

The Fine Gael TD for Limerick said St Patrick’s Day was a day for the garden, to work outside the house, to “steer away from alcohol. It’s not a day to see the virus creep into houses and take off,” he warned.

Mr O’Donovan said he was just trying to impress on people “we can see the finishing line up ahead – I’m just asking people to stick with it, it’s really hard, we all know that but tomorrow is a day – just let it pass, just let it go.”

People could go for a walk with one other household, not have a picnic, they should not be meeting up “to have a puck around in the park where it’s going to turn into a social event. Not kids playing around while parents sit on bench having a latte.”

“I think 12 months on from the pubs being closed we saw what happened with the uncontrolled sale of alcohol – pictures from Limerick two weeks ago, that’s not the only place we saw, funerals all over the place just let go totally unregulated – we saw people that died as a result of attendance at funerals. In counties up and down the country there have been some scandalous scenes. I hope that I’m not on your show next week saying look at what happened on St Patrick’s Day.

“More and more people are getting the message that clowning around has done an awful lot of damage, unfortunately what we saw in the run up to Christmas – it was the gatherings around funerals that did a huge amount of damage, then we had the sheebeens – guards had to go out, endangering themselves and their families, to deal with these yahoos. It’s unbelievable what some people have done to the rest of the community over the last 12 months in the name of enjoying themselves.”