Alcohol Bill returns to Seanad with concessions for small retailers

Taoiseach pushes for Bill to be passed in Upper House by Christmas

Public Health (Alcohol) Bill will now include concessions for small traders. File photograph: Philip Toscano/PA Wire

Public Health (Alcohol) Bill will now include concessions for small traders. File photograph: Philip Toscano/PA Wire

 

The controversial Public Health (Alcohol) Bill is set to return to the Seanad on Friday to complete all stages.

The legislation will now include concessions for small traders concerned about the financial impact of segregating alcohol from other products in stores.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is understood to have pushed for the Seanad at least to complete the Bill by Christmas.

Mr Varadkar who introduced the legislation in December 2015 when he was minister for health, said this Bill was “very close to my heart”.

He told Fine Gael’s national conference in November he was determined to have the legislation enacted by Christmas but subsequently conceded in the Dáil that it would not happen.

If it completes its passage in the Seanad this week it still has to go before the Dáil when the House returns after the Christmas recess.

The Bill, which targets Ireland’s alcohol crisis, completed committee stage in the Seanad in November, but its move to final stages was delayed while Minister for Health Simon Harris engaged in discussions with retailers on minimising the visibility of alcohol in their shops.

The Bill provides for strict segregation of alcohol from other products in supermarkets and stores; the introduction of minimum unit pricing; detailed health information on alcohol product labels including calories and ingredients; and restrictions on advertising and promotion.

Mr Harris has since completed the discussions and will introduce an amendment with a number of measures for retailers in small shops whose concerns included the type and height of structures they would have to construct to separate alcohol from other products.

The Bill was scheduled, after the Minister’s discussions with retailers, to return to the Seanad next week, but Senators now hope to complete the Bill on Friday and avoid sitting next week. The Dáil rises on Friday.