An "ocean of alcohol" has been pouring into Irish homes since the start of the Covid-19 crisis with official data showing wine sales for home consumption increasing dramatically last year, according to Alcohol Action Ireland (AAI).
The advocacy group, which has the stated aim of reducing alcohol harm in Ireland, expressed its disappointment at official figures pointing to a marginal decline in alcohol consumption in 2020 despite the fact that access to pubs, clubs and restaurants was curtailed for much of the year.
Fresh data published by Revenue this week suggests that alcohol consumption was 10.06 litres per capita in 2020, down 6 per cent on the 10.78 litres consumed a year earlier.
All told the net alcohol excise receipts for the year showed a 2.4 per cent decline suggesting that the public finances have experienced little impact because of the pandemic experience.
Some products fared considerably better than others. While the excise receipts from beer sales fell 21 per cent, with cider recording an 11.4 per cent drop, it was an entirely different story for wine.
Wine consumption climbed by 12 per cent in 2020 even though many restaurants where it would frequently be consumed were closed for a considerable portion of the year, Even when were allowed to reopen, the number of diners they could serve was restricted as was the length of time those diners could spend in the restaurants.
That suggests that the number of people drinking wine at home has increased dramatically year on year.
“The data for the year 2020 highlights the extraordinary shift that has taken place among Ireland’s drinking population and the ocean of alcohol that has poured into the nation’s homes,” said the AAI’s Eunan McKinney.
“From the beginning of the Covid crisis we have been urging government to act on this consequence,” he continued.
He said the introduction of minimum unit pricing on alcohol products, which primarily applies to the off-trade “who have experienced a profit boom” would act as “some curb on what undoubtedly will be the source of many problems to come”.
He suggested that what might have been a temporary lifestyle “may now be permanent habit, meantime 200,000 children every day have to navigate the chaos of parental problem alcohol use.”