Minimum pricing for alcohol to be enforced from January 2022

Measures signed off by Cabinet mean alcohol will not be available at ‘pocket-money prices’

Minimum pricing for alcohol will be brought in from January 2022 under proposals signed off on by Cabinet on Tuesday. File Photograph: PA.

Minimum pricing for alcohol will be brought in from January 2022 under proposals signed off on by Cabinet on Tuesday. File Photograph: PA.

 

Minimum pricing for alcohol will be brought in from January 2022 under plans signed off on by Cabinet on Tuesday.

The Government decided to press ahead with the plan despite fears among retailers that it would send bargain shoppers over the Border in the absence of minimum unit pricing there.

Efforts to bring in similar measures in Northern Ireland are not expected to begin until mid-2022 at the earliest.

There has been resistance to the measure from the drinks industry, retailers and some Border TDs.

Under the plan there is to be a minimum price of 10 cent per gram of alcohol. According to a tweet by the Minister of State at the Department of Health, Frank Feighan, the cheapest 750ml bottle of wine would cost €7.40 (12.5 per cent ABV) whereas previously it could cost less than €5 – wine with higher alcohol content would cost at least €7.75. A 700ml bottle of supermarket gin or vodka now costing between €13 and €14 would cost €20.71 under the system.

Mr Feighan said it was a “targeted public-health measure” that would mean alcohol is not available to vulnerable people or children at “‘pocket-money prices”.

He pointed to high numbers of alcohol-related deaths and said: “The time for action to begin to address this problem is now.”

Reports in recent weeks suggested the crackdown on cheap alcohol could come much sooner or at least by September.

However, sources said the almost eight-month period before the measure begins would allow retailers time to prepare as well as offer a chance for renewed efforts to persuade the Northern Ireland Executive to follow suit.

The January 1st date also means the changes will not be the cause of a pre-Christmas cross-Border rush for cheaper alcohol. Sources also suggested the date was decided upon as well as a “compromise” to allay the concerns of business and Border TDs.

Disappointment

Retail Ireland expressed disappointment that the Government will move ahead without alignment with Northern Ireland and predicted a surge in cross-Border shopping.

Its director Arnold Dillon said: “If consumers travel to Northern Ireland to shop, they will inevitably spend money in a wide range of retail and hospitality outlets, not just in grocery and off-trade.

“This will be at the expense of struggling businesses here.”

He added: “While the retail sector understands and appreciates the public-health rationale for MUP, we should have waited to align with Northern Ireland.”

Minimum pricing legislation was approved here in 2018 but was not implemented due to plans to introduce it at the same time as Northern Ireland.

The proposals were spearheaded by former Labour minister for State and now Social Democrats co-leader Róisín Shortall during the Fine Gael-Labour government of 2011-2016.

Former minister for health Dr James Reilly, who supported the initiative at the time, praised Mr Feighan for getting approval for the plan now.

He said: “It is unfortunate it’s taken so long. It would have been far preferable to have got this in a lot sooner but it’s great that it’s happening at long last.”

Dr Reilly said proceeding at the same time as the North would have been easier for retailers but added: “The bottom line here is that alcohol does untold damage in our society” causing illness and injuries as well as contributing to violence, crime and harm to relationships.

He also said: “I’ve always maintained that a good public-health measure will save many more lives over a much longer period of time than any new hospital, machine or MRI scanner and so it will be the case here too.”