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The true cost of extending pub hours

We need a health impact assessment of proposals to enhance alcohol availability

Letters to the Editor. Illustration: Paul Scott
The Irish Times - Letters to the Editor.

Sir, – Vintners and nightclub owners are continuing to press for extended licensing hours (Letters, June 18th).

Calls from these vested interests should be weighed against the concerns of those who will have to pick up the pieces of increased alcohol consumption. Over 80 organisations and public health advocates including the chief medical officer, the chair of the Road Safety Authority, the Irish Association of Emergency Medicine, Children’s Rights Alliance, Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Ireland, the Irish Heart Foundation, community organisations, mental health bodies, domestic and sexual violence groups, to name just a few, have called for a health impact assessment of proposals to enhance alcohol availability. This was also a key recommendation of the Oireachtas Justice Committee in its pre-legislative scrutiny of the proposals.

To be clear, what is proposed is that all bars would be open for an additional hour every night, ie to 12.30 am; the facilitation for all bars to obtain a late license to 2.30 am and nightclub hours extended to 6 am. The letter writers wax lyrical about the European social scene while ignoring the evidence from multiple jurisdictions about the harms experienced from even a one-hour extension, such as a 34 per cent increase in alcohol-related injuries requiring hospital treatment and up to a 30 per cent increase in road collisions. We only have to look to Northern Ireland which has seen a 17 per cent increase in alcohol-related crime since licensing hours were extended there in October 2022. Interestingly the reverse is also true with a two-hour reduction in late-night trading in New South Wales in Australia, leading to a 29 per cent reduction in reported domestic violence incidents.

This unease about extending licensing hours is also shared by the public with recent polling by Ireland Thinks finding that 67 per cent were concerned about the impact on public services such as emergency departments, ambulances, gardaí and transport. This is not surprising given other data from the HSE indicating 50 per cent have experienced harm from strangers’ drinking in the previous year.


On taking office, the Taoiseach, Simon Harris, stated that the proposals “needed a second look”. The best way to do this is to carry out a full assessment of the likely impacts on already overstretched public services and plan accordingly.

It is time for the Government to consider who are they serving – the public or the alcohol industry? – Yours, etc,



Alcohol Action Ireland,

Dublin 7.