Self-regulation of alcohol sales is working, says Ahern

 

RETAILERS WHO fail to adhere to rules on the sale and display of alcohol could lose their licence to sell such drink under legal changes proposed by Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern.

Mr Ahern said he intended to make non-compliance by shopowners with a code of practice on alcoholic drink a statutory ground on which objections may be made to the renewal of an outlet’s licence to sell alcohol.

The code, which is voluntary, was introduced by retailers last year to stave off statutory restrictions on the sale of alcohol in shops contained in the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008. It enjoys the support of all the main retail chains, though not many smaller operators and off-licences.

Under the code, alcohol can be displayed in-store only in one separate area and cannot be advertised in shop windows.

It can only be sold at clearly designated check-out points and there must be a complaints procedure in operation.

Mr Ahern said yesterday that self-regulation by retailers of their sale of alcohol was working. While he shared the concerns raised by reports about the effects of alcohol abuse on society, the industry had made a good argument for a voluntary code, so there was no need for the Government to intervene.

The proof of the pudding, he said, was that more than 90 per cent of shops surveyed by Responsible Retailers of Alcohol in Ireland were found to be in compliance with the code.

Former IDA chief executive Pádraic White, who chairs the body and who oversees the operation of the code, said the new rules had brought about striking changes in how alcohol was sold and displayed.

He urged independent convenience stores who had not signed up to the code to do so.

Both men, speaking at an event in a Temple Bar convenience store, urged drinkers who were planning to celebrate St Patrick’s Day to consume alcohol responsibly.

Asked about calls by Limerick publicans to be allowed to open on Good Friday, April 2nd, to facilitate fans attending a Munster-Leinster rugby match in Thomond Park that day, Mr Ahern said the courts would have to decide the matter.

In relation to liberalising pub opening hours to allow opening generally on Good Friday or Christmas Day, he said it was better to “hasten slowly”.

Insp Dan Flavin of Pearse Street Garda station said retailers were becoming increasingly responsible regarding the sale of alcohol.

He said incidents of public order offences in Temple Bar were significantly down, while there were no significant problems during last year’s St Patrick’s Day celebrations.