Shortall wants to end below-cost alcohol sales


MINISTER OF State for Health Róisín Shortall has said she is in favour of introducing a minimum price for alcohol being sold in supermarkets and other shops to make alcohol products more expensive.

She said such a measure could put an end to the practice of major retailers selling alcohol below cost at prices that encouraged excessive consumption, particularly among the young.

Ms Shortall told the Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children that price-related proposals to curb the sale of alcohol were being considered at present in the formulation of the new national substance misuse strategy.

She said it would be hard to ban below-cost selling because, with many major retail chains getting very substantial discounts for bulk buying, establishing their true cost price for alcohol was difficult.

“The steering group has been concentrating on minimum prices increases. I personally would be very committed to going on those grounds, provided it is legally sound.”

She also wanted to tackle distance selling, or so-called dial-a- can operations, through which she believed teenagers were accessing alcohol.

She said some of the drinks companies and their lobbyists had contacted her repeatedly to seek meetings with her, while the steering group was still formulating the new strategy but she had “not been available”.

Aside from the issue of alcohol, Ms Shortall said she wanted to place the emphasis very much on rehabilitation when formulating policy around the State’s approach to illicit drugs. There were 14,500 heroin addicts in the Republic, 9,300 of whom were receiving methadone-based treatment.

She was determined those in treatment would not remain stuck at that stage of taking methadone.

While recent legislation had forced the closure of 90 of the State’s 112 head shops, new legislation was needed to ban those so-called legal highs not covered by law. She said her department was conducting a study of prescription rates of tranquilliser drugs and this research would be used to curb overprescription of benzodiazepines in problem areas.