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Intoxicating Liquor Bill, 2000: Committee Stage
11th May, 2000

Sections 1 and 2 agreed to.


Mr. Costello: I move amendment No. 1:

1. In page 6, line 39, after "Act," to insert "and subject to an order of the Court on granting a particular licence or at any time thereafter varying the application of this section to the licensed premises concerned having due regard to the size and location of the premises and to relevant local circumstances, residential amenities and transport services,".


I welcome the Minister to the House. This Bill has been a long time in gestation and we are particularly anxious to tease it out carefully.

The amendment is based on my belief that the Bill, as it stands, is over prescriptive. I am seeking to introduce a degree of flexibility into the Bill so that the prescriptive terms outlined therein are subject to an order of the courts which may vary the terms of the legislation regarding the granting of a licence depending on the size and location of the premises, the relevant local circumstances and residential amenities and transport services.

We are dealing with intoxicating liquor in a strange manner and feel obliged to prescribe the hours in detail. Not taking into account public holidays such as Christmas Day, Good Friday and St. Patrick's Day, we already have in place three prescriptive times when drinking is allowed: 11 p.m. on Sundays, 11.30 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and 12.30 a.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. I thought we would have introduced some uniformity of drinking hours in this Bill. However, if we introduce uniformity we must also introduce flexibility. This amendment and a combination of later amendments have to be taken as a unit to achieve this.

There is a huge difference between a public house in a residential area, in the centre of Dublin and a rural area. Huge considerations such as convenience, noise pollution and opening times have to be taken into account. Public houses will be permitted to serve customers until 12.30 a.m. with a half hour drinking up time on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. This will result in large numbers of people pouring out on to the streets between 1 a.m. and 1.30 a.m. and all looking for taxis because the public transport system will have finished. Everyone has experienced the difficulties of getting a taxi in Dublin late at night. We are also aware of the difficulties which arise in residential areas. Our licensing laws are so rigid that we have ended up with public houses resembling large barns.


Mr. Norris: Hear, hear.


Mr. Costello: They are large so-called lounges which are geared more towards the old traditional dancehall facility, packing in as many people as possible, than an intimate social outlet where people get together in a gregarious fashion. That has happened in many residential areas. A lack of deregulation of licences - even in this legislation licences can only replace each other - has resulted in our not being in a position to provide a range of suitable public houses more conducive to built up areas and more amenable to the law in every sense.

Police forces in England and Scotland have converged in their opinion that all public houses should not close at the same time. Britain is now moving towards deregulation and 24 hour opening with internal regulation. That is partly the way we should go otherwise we will encounter huge problems. We will have to return to this legislation in a very short time as dozens of irate resident associations, traders, the public and private transport sectors and councillors are getting the brunt of the public's anger at the manner in which we have done our business here, when they realise what will happen in their communities.

I am proposing that we move away from the rigidity, the strictures and the over-prescription of this legislation alone to an additional mechanism which would allow a greater role by the courts relating to local circumstances and other factors in terms of transport services etc.

Mr. Norris: I strongly support this amendment which is an important one. We need to have something in the Bill like this to balance the result of an extremely effective lobbying by a powerful, wealthy and influential group in our society. I would like, however, to correct just one comment made by Senator Costello. He spoke about the difference between the centre of Dublin and residential areas. I know it was a slip of the tongue because Senator Costello knows perfectly well that there are sections of the inner city of Dublin that are residential areas but they are treated as human dumps. Behaviour is tolerated there that would not be tolerated anywhere else in the country. Since we have representatives of the vintners here, in what way are the Vintners' Federation policing the behaviour of their members and of the licensing trade in general?


Mr. Bohan: Very well, very well.


Mr. Norris: They are not because I live in the middle of the mess that is allowed. Some - quite a lot of them - are very good but there was a pub in the news recently where a race riot was very nearly sparked. That pub has a history going back to 1922 when it featured in the famous second act of Sean O'Casey's The Plough and the Stars as the scene of a sort of low dispute and it has been uninterrupted since. The manager of that place had the cheek to write to the planning authority that it was a quiet area - a pub in which gunshots are regularly heard. He is perhaps suffering from attention deficit disorder or army deafness syndrome.

I would like to know what the Garda are doing and what the courts are doing. How is it that a whole series of pubs are allowed licences? I am not just referring to this one but also to the point excellently made by Senator Costello about the efflorescence over recent years of aircraft hangars in the centre of Dublin where alcohol is routinely poured into under age drinkers. Who is objecting to this? The guards know about it, the courts know about it but nothing is being done. Let us see the guards object to some of these pubs. Let us see the courts ceasing to rubber-stamp applications year after year for places which should not receive a licence at all. It would be necessary to take the transport or residential amenities and so on into account.

It is not just in the suburbs. There are areas of the city, and I have listened to some of the local radio stations all over Dublin in what would be loosely described as working class areas, where people are kept awake all night by the noise.


An Cathaoirleach: The Senator is making a Second Stage speech. We are on Committee Stage and the Senator must address his comments specifically to the amendment.

Mr. Norris: I am sure you are right, but you will recall that I did not have an opportunity to make the Second Stage speech as I would have liked to.


An Cathaoirleach: I still cannot allow Senator Norris to make a Second Stage speech on Committee Stage.


Mr. Norris: I understand that but, with the greatest respect to the Cathaoirleach, the points I am trying to make are in support of the amendment, specifically regarding transport facilities, the granting of licences and the policing of these premises. It is not satisfactory currently.


Mr. Bohan: On a point of order, this has nothing to do with seconding this amendment on under age drinking.


Mr. Norris: It has quite a lot to do with it. I am talking about the policing of the whole matter. I am talking about the granting of licences.


Mr. Bohan: What has the Blue Lion pub----?


Mr. Norris: I am talking about the granting of licences


An Cathaoirleach: Senator Bohan must cease interrupting but Senator Norris must address the amendment which is before the House, which was proposed by Senator Costello. Part IV of the Bill deals with the granting of licences.


Mr. Norris: Indeed, but the words are quite clear that section 1 refers to the granting of a particular licence at any time. I am referring to the granting of licences and the varying of these licences in the terms in which they appear on this amendment. I have made my point and I hope that Senator Costello will push this amendment, not perhaps to a vote at this stage, but he may like to reserve it until Report Stage. There are very strong feelings on this. We are talking about a market here and there is a consistent attempt to expand the market for drink, blithely disregarding the health of the populace.


Mr. Connor: I support this amendment. It deals with licensing administration and the problem is that while this Bill goes a long way to reform the law system, it does very little to streamline licensing administration. I tried to put down an amendment relating to what was recommended by the sub-committee of the joint Oireachtas committee who brought forward a report, much of which is well reflected in the Bill and I am grateful to the Minister for that. Nevertheless, licensing administration is not addressed. We had suggested, as a measure which would be brought in by degree, that a section of the Circuit Court would become the sole licensing authority. Currently, it is dispersed all over the place. The Circuit Court is the primary licensing authority and the Revenue Commissioners are involved. Unfortunately, someone who wishes to object to the granting of a licence has only one opportunity on 30 September.


An Cathaoirleach: There is an amendment on the Order Paper which deals with that matter.


Mr. Connor: These matters are related and I am a little surprised that those amendments may not relate to what I understand is in this Bill referring to that area.


An Cathaoirleach: I understand that the matters are not related. They are two separate points.


Mr. Connor: That is a matter for debate. The point being made in the amendment is valid because it refers to local circumstances and the difficulty that can arise in local neighbourhoods relating to the operation of a licence. I will listen to what the Minister has to say and no doubt we will come back to hear more on that.


Dr. Henry: I too support Senator Costello's amendment. The size of some of the pubs which are now put up in residential areas has caused enormous distress to the people who live in those areas and must be taken account of. It would be very shabby if local circumstances cannot be taken into account when it comes to granting a licence.


Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue): The effect of the amendment could be to create huge inconsistencies in the application of permitted opening hours of licensed premises. For example, one licensed premises on a street might find itself being forced to close at 11. 00 p.m., another on a nearby street, or even on the same street, might be permitted to remain open until midnight and yet another might find that it could open until 12.30 a.m. Alternatively, it could have the effect of creating virtual ghettos where licensed premises could remain open late, thereby drawing customers from other areas, not just to the detriment of those areas but eventually to the detriment of the areas with later opening hours. It is not clear from the wording of the amendment but the implication would appear to be that the larger the premises, the more restricted the permitted hours might be.

Alternatively, however, a medium sized or small licensed premise in a rural town, where there is no public transport of any nature except the occasional taxi, or hackney cars as we call them in my part of the country, would also be subject to restricted hours. If one were to bring this amendment to its logical conclusion, the Senators would have me allow a licence to be restricted to certain hours the whole year. That way, invidious choices and fine distinctions would need to be made by the courts. It would make a nonsense of the system under which the licence of a premises is issued. Where there is a problem in a particular premises, there are already provisions in the intoxicating liquor and planning laws which come into play whether at the renewal of the licence stage or, as the case may be, at the development stage of the premises. That is the sensible and practical way in which the law operates and there is nothing in this amendment that would add to this system. The amendment would be unworkable. In those circumstances it will not come as any surprise to Senators that I do not propose to accept the amendment.


Mr. Costello: I am not pleased with the Minister's response. He is basically saying that he has no intention of allowing flexibility in the licensing system. He had no problem with different closing times - 11 p.m., 11.30 p.m. and 12.30 a.m.


Mr. O'Donoghue: For all pubs.


Mr. Costello: He is not, however, prepared to consider the implications of everyone pouring out on to the streets at the same time. We have seen the difficulties with public transport when people leave bars at 11 p.m. under winter opening hours. Thankfully we are getting rid of the dichotomy between winter and summer but in future there will be no public transport on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. There will only be purely private transport which is totally inadequate. Has the Minister addressed that problem?

Why should local circumstances not be taken into consideration? Why does the Minister have to be big brother, determining by law and precisely prescribing closing times in every corner of the State, be it urban, suburban or rural? Why will the Minister not allow a licensing authority, under the auspices of the courts, to determine if there are grounds for variation in his prescription, depending on the exigencies of the area and the needs of the people?

There is a world of difference between Temple Bar and North Great George's Street and I apologise to Senator Norris for not considering that in my remarks. There are huge differences between what is acceptable and what is not in certain areas. The Minister should encourage the Vintners' Federation and all other operators of public houses to move toward a more intimate form of service. They are moving in the opposite direction into a position where anti-social situations develop at the end of a night's socialising. The Minister's proposals will only aggravate that.

I do not intend to press the amendment at this point but the Minister should reflect on it. He will find he has problems with very irate people on the matter and I will re-introduce the amendment on Report Stage.


Mr. Norris: Senator Costello made some very valid points. In other jurisdictions a variation of closing times has been found to be beneficial. I have heard people throughout the city calling for this. The point that there are transport difficulties is well made. There are waves of people walking home in a drunken fashion who urinate and vomit publicly. It may sound funny but it is a source of infection and a serious health problem. It is a disgrace to the community that there is such tolerance of these actions and that some people find it funny. I do not find it at all entertaining, it is a dangerous and disgusting practice.

In the light of the Minister's refusal, will he give an undertaking that he will monitor this on a trial basis so he will be in possession of the facts? I invite him to give an undertaking to the House that, for example, the Parnell Street area will be closely monitored by the Garda at closing time, particularly the new closing time. Let us have the facts, let there be monitoring so we know what is going on and what sort of behaviour is being inflicted on the people who live in this part of the city.


Mr. Quinn: I purposely did not come into the House when Senators Costello and Norris first addressed this issue because I wanted to hear the Minister's view. He has not convinced me. The Minister has been flexible and has done a competent job in most of the Bill and I congratulate him for trying to balance the differing needs and concerns.

I was contacted by the Malahide Grove Residents Association concerning one premises, the Grove Hotel in Malahide, now called Maud Plunkett's Hotel. I mention it because the association has done a very good job of explaining the specific problems residents face in an area with a pub which is causing problems. The Minister could consider this as an example of the possibility of allowing the courts to vary licences on the basis of the behaviour of the publican and the history of the premises.

The Minister has, to an extent, covered this in the provisions in the Bill related to under age drinking. The courts will have considerable freedom to issue closure orders to those pubs which serve children. It would be sensible, however, for the Minister to reconsider this issue between now and Report Stage. It demonstrates why it might be wise to have time between Committee and Report Stages.


Mrs. Ridge: I support the remarks made by Senator Quinn. We are referring to residential amenities. In my area one local hotel - hotel being a misnomer - spews out hundreds of obnoxiously drunk young people. The problem faced by the gardaí is that everywhere closes at the same time. Dublin can be a horrible city at 3 a.m. on a Saturday morning. Where I live, 12 years of age seems to be the starting age for drinking. There should be a special police force to deal with this problem.

Senator Quinn's proposal is very sensible. We do not want to penalise responsible proprietors who provide a good service. Most people who drink are not gluttons. They may work late and it is nice to go into a pub and have a drink in a pleasant atmosphere. It is part of our culture. I cannot, however, reconcile that idea with these huge shacks with bright fronts, the sole purpose of which is for customers to compete in drinking the largest amount.

Littering is the least of the problems when these people come onto the streets. I would say more children are conceived subsequent to people coming out of the pubs on Saturday nights than at any other time - I am serious. The people who telephone late night radio programmes all say that they had a few cans and then found they were pregnant. It removes the quality of life for the young people involved because they are sucked into the idea that they are not clever if they do not get totally "locked". I am very strong on this - the visual offence to other people is absolutely dreadful. I am talking about fornication, not even in doorways, urination, defecation, screaming and shouting. I know, a Chathaoireach, you look shocked. All that I have said is true. What I have pointed to is visible in many of the outer suburbs of Dublin on Friday and Saturday nights.

To accommodate moderate drinking, even excessive drinking without nuisance to other people, we should have some call-back system for ourselves as Senator Quinn has said because in accommodating people's social needs we cannot take away from the quality of life of people in residential areas who are sick to the teeth of this kind of behaviour. I am sorry if I have offended anyone verbally but I am inclined to say it as it is. I would be grateful if the Minister would take on board Senator Quinn's suggestion.


Mr. Connor: I want to reiterate what I was trying to say earlier. The problem is that the whole nature of fixing trading hours is prescriptive, they are set down by law. That has always been the case since the first Act in 1833 and certainly after1906. A matter that arose in the sub-committee was that rather than have a edict in relation to trading hours there should be some flexibility. The only way to approach that is to have a separate licensing authority rather than by the Oireachtas laying down the law. The courts cannot vary the trading hours as laid down by law.

A full chapter of the sub-committee's report deals with that issue and makes suggestions as to how the law can be made more flexible. In other words, they could look at an area where there is a particular neighbourhood difficulty in relation to a trading licensed premises and something could be done to vary its hours of trading to meet neighbourhood needs. It is as simple as that. That is well dealt with in the report of the sub-committee. There is a lack of flexibility. While the Minister and I often have occasion to cross swords in this House on various legislative matters, I compliment him on the amount of the work of the sub-committee that has been reflected in the Bill. An area of weakness in the Bill is lack of flexibility in relation to trading hours and the fixing of trading hours.


Mr. Norris: I am greatly distressed to learn from Senator Ridge that conception occurs among drunken people on the way out of pubs apparently on the public street. I have never fully understood heterosexuality, I have to say, but I have always taken a liberal view and I felt it should not be criminalised so long as it was done in private and not on the streets where it might frighten the horses. I hope this form of behaviour is ruthlessly stamped out. I speak in the interests of animal welfare. If this continues what will happen to the horses of Ireland? They will severely traumatised. I appeal to the Minister to take this point on board which has been so effectively made by Senator Ridge as usual.

Senator Quinn made an excellent point. I am grateful to him because I was also briefed by the people in Malahide. As I understand the sequence of events - I am prepared to be corrected on this - a private house was acquired, turned into an hotel and retention permission was applied for. It seems this is unfair on the neighbours.

With regard to the inner city pub, there has been a very substantial change in recent years. In the old days a lot of the pubs were family businesses with the families living above the shop. That has now changed in the manner described by Senator Costello to the detriment of the whole thing. I do, of course, accept the vast majority of pub owners, including people who sit in this House, are very decent people and run a good shop but there are, unfortunately, a minority who are doing a great deal of damage.

I conclude by repeating my invitation to the Minister to ask the Garda to monitor what is happening at closing time in these areas and give him a report. He might like to administer a little kick to a few of the Judiciary for the way in which they rubber stamp these applications too because that is not fair on the decent publicans.


Dr. Henry: Senator Norris is quite right when he refers to the change in many of the centre city pubs. I live in the city. One important change has to do with music and noise. I do not necessarily mean live music. This is an important variation in some establishments which has made life miserable for those who live in the area.


Mr. O'Donoghue: I would say to Senators Ridge and Norris that I am at war on too many fronts to be in a position to engage in a battle against the procreation habits of even a minority of Dublin's drinking population. I trust this will be understood. With regard to the implications of people coming out on to the streets at the same time, I can understand why Senators might be concerned in relation to the feelings of residents in some areas. I accept there are problems in some areas.

This Bill, while it changes the law in relation to the permitted hours, does not change matters that much in terms of people coming out on to the streets for the simple reason that people will still come out on the streets, albeit a little later. The change in that regard is not of any major significance.

Senator Costello and others have indicated that local circumstances should be taken into account. I wonder if this has been teased out properly. If one were to take local circumstances into account in framing legislation of this nature, it is apparent that one would have to take into account, for example, a football match at point B, a racehorse meeting at point C, a greyhound meeting at point D, a dance at point E. It is not possible to legislate like that. It is not feasible and it is not practicable.


Mr. Costello: That is not what we are saying.


Mr. O'Donoghue: That is the implication of what the Deputy is saying. If I were to take local circumstances into account in framing the legislation it simply would not be possible to frame it because there would be so many circumstances which are germane and local to areas. That must be clear. With regard to the behaviour of those who hold licences and the manner in which premises are run, there is already provision in our laws to ensure that people have the opportunity, at the annual licensing district court every September, to go into the court and object to the renewal of a licence on these particular grounds.


Mr. Norris: Why do not the police do it?


Mr. O'Donoghue: If it is the case that a premises is not being properly run or if the character of the licensee is in question, there is not a difficulty in any individual going into the court to make an objection. Senator Norris asked why the police do not do it. They have been known to do it. However, I suggest that upstanding citizens who have objections in relation to matters of this kind which can stand up should stand up and be counted.


Mr. Norris: Why should I continually do it in the absence of any support from the Garda and the courts?


Mr. O'Donoghue: With regard to the issue of a separate licensing authority, to which Senator Connor has referred, this was considered and it is an interesting concept. In the final analysis it was considered that the present system is more than adequate. There is a proposal in this legislation to set up a licensing commission which will look at the whole issue of licensing and make recommendations to Government from time to time in regard to how to proceed. In framing this legislation it was necessary to engage in extensive consultations over a two year period with various interest groups all over the country, to take submissions from the general public and various organisations and to consider all of these in great detail before producing a balanced measure. In the future I would envisage the commission taking on this role, thus obviating the need for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to engage in an extensive trawl before producing the legislation.

With regard to taking on board an amendment of this type, I understand the concerns that motivate it, which Senators have articulated well. However, my difficulty is that from a pragmatic point of view it would not be possible to implement the Senators' aspirations. However, we will deal later with the issue of licensing and the changes that will be brought about in that area. I do not wish to pre-empt that discussion but, with a view to helping this debate, my firm view is that once the provisions of the legislation regarding the licensing of premises in the future are implemented, there will be a greater number of licensed premises in areas of greatest need. Consequently, the premises concerned will be, to use Senator Costello's phrase, more intimate.


Amendment put and declared lost.


An Cathaoirleach: Amendments Nos. 2, 6, 22 and 26 form a composite proposal and all may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.


Mr. O'Toole: I move amendment No. 2:


In page 7, line 1, to delete "or Good Friday".


The main purpose of the amendment is to allow pubs to open on Good Friday. This is related to the points I made on Second Stage. Senator Ridge and others blamed drink for unwanted pregnancies, but that is similar to blaming Alfred Nobel for car bombs in Belfast or Mr. Daimler for car accidents. It does not make sense. It is not right and I contrast it with the approach of other groups.

As the Minister said, one cannot take all local circumstances into consideration when framing legislation. This is correct and that is why I have said consistently that the legislation is an anachronism. It tries to impose a form of prohibition, but that has never worked, and partial prohibition does not work either. I contrast the contents of the Bill with the enlightened approach of groups such as the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association which consider the demand aspect rather than the supply end. It concentrates on how to deal with under age drinking, giving the Garda proper authority, dealing with public places, including health warnings, and also the people who make drink available, the drinks industry, publicans and adults who are responsible for their actions. This is the way to deal with the matter.

The concentration should be on the demand side. There is no point saying to people that they will not be allowed drink at a certain time or on a certain day in a particular place. Every adult can have a drink when he or she wishes. Therefore, this type of regulation is unnecessary. I specifically tabled an amendment in relation to Good Friday because the position in that regard is the height of hypocrisy. In recent days I spoke to many people who drink and the vast majority of them had a drink on Good Friday. I walked into a public house on Good Friday at 10.30 p.m. and it was full of people who were enjoying a bank holiday. Many of them had been at church services earlier and they were doing what they would normally do on a Friday night. This was in County Clare and I asked people their views on Good Friday closing.


Mr. O'Donoghue: Kerry pubs were closed.


Mr. O'Toole: I cannot find anybody in Kerry or the west who feels there is a great need for pubs to be closed on Good Friday. I did not have any contact with the Minister's townland but I spoke to the Government Chief Whip who was born in the same town as I was. He is not prepared to articulate my views but I believe that in his innermost mind he shares them.


Mr. Norris: That is an advance on de Valera who only knew what Ireland was thinking.


Mr. O'Toole: In the words of Lyndon Johnson, then let him deny it if he does not agree.

Ireland is a grown up country. We appear able to deal with bribery, corruption and other nasty aspects of life. We talk about creating an inclusive society, openness and giving people responsibility for their actions. Perhaps somebody could tell me why pubs do not open on Good Friday. This was never sought by the Catholic Church or any other group. It may have resulted from a demand by 100% of the population at a particular time in our history, but that is no longer the case and, therefore, it is an anachronism. It does not have a place and the amendment recognises the reality of life at present.

It also recognises that in dealing with the problems created by drink, one should deal with the demand rather than the supply side. We should consider the views offered by people who are experts in this area because that is what they say. I ask the Minister to accept the amendment or else find people who believe that pubs should be closed on Good Friday. Why is the provision included other than the fact that it is an historical measure? It is an outdated anachronism.


Mr. Costello: I agree with Senator O'Toole's remarks. They reflect the points made in regard to the previous amendment that the Bill deals largely with restriction and prescription. The Minister should not wander into these areas. What is the reason for his position that no alcohol should be consumed on Good Friday? Is it because there is a perceived political need to respond to a previous church demand? Fr. Micheál Mac Greil from the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association is present in the Visitors Gallery and I am sure he would be able to inform us if the church has any wish for the closing of pubs on Good Friday to continue.

The prescription is more often honoured in the breach than the observance, as Senator O'Toole said. I have seen it in rural Ireland, from where I come, and the city. People go to inordinate lengths to get a drink on Good Friday and they invariably succeed. If the pub is not open, they take a trip down the country to Tralee, Dingle or Cahirciveen where they can drink on the train, although I am not sure that the train goes to Cahirciveen any more.


Mr. O'Donoghue: Not since 1959. There is much drinking up time under the bridge since then.


Mr. Costello: I know friends who pool funds and travel by train to Belfast, Cork or Killarney on Good Friday. They have a great time because there is no limitation on drink. They end up in a hotel in, for example, Killarney where they can drink to their hearts content. The Minister has stated that there should be no drinking on Good Friday except as prescribed by law, but there are ways around it. The simplest thing to do would be to delete the provision. There is no need to behave like Big Brother on this matter. There is no religious need for it. People can respect Sunday, Good Friday and other holidays without the need for a total ban on drinking in pubs on the day.

The provision may have been introduced for a particular reason in the past. There may have been a valid reason for it then, but there is no valid reason for it now. Why should it be necessary for people to try to come up with ways to get around the restriction? As I said, they invariably succeed. We should be open and honest about it and get rid of it.


Mr. O'Donoghue: As regards Senator O'Toole's comments on prohibition, this legislation is not about prohibition but about extending pub hours and providing for a greater degree of licences, among other things. I am taken aback to hear Senator Costello talk about restrictions and limitations. This Bill is the most expansive one to deal with the intoxicating liquor laws in the history of the State.


Mr. Costello: It is all about restrictions, limitations and prescriptions.


Mr. O'Donoghue: I am not partial to prohibition and I am relatively impartial on partial prohibition. That is my personal view but when one is in my position it is necessary to get Government consent on publishing this type of legislation, to take on board the views of all the necessary interest groups, to listen to the public and to reach a consensus. I am aware, for example, that former Ministers for Justice - I do not say this boastfully - would not dare touch the intoxicating liquor laws because they felt it was walking on egg shells and they were right. That has been my experience over the past two to three years.

It is difficult to strike a balance. Senator Costello and Senator O'Toole may be correct in what they are saying but there is another viewpoint that they are completely wrong. In as much as there are as many optimum hours at which one can close a public house as there are drinks, there are as many views on Good Friday being a closed day as there are views that it should be an open day. I must take what I consider to be the well-being and the views of society on board.

If one makes the argument for pluralism, which Senator O'Toole has made, to the effect that Good Friday should be an open day in public houses, then I am entitled to ask why we should stop there. Why does the Senator not say that Christmas Day should be an open day as well? If the Senator wants to be consistent in terms of pluralism, he must go all the way. He cannot differentiate unless he is consistent. The legislation is consistent and on balance, although it is a thin line, it is correct to leave Good Friday and Christmas Day as they are.

We have taken hundreds of submissions in the Department on this issue and I could not discern a demand of any note from the public to open public houses on Good Friday.


Mr. Costello: There is no demand from the vintners.

Mr. O'Donoghue: I cannot deny that a minority of people may wish to go into public houses on Good Friday. There is a minority of people who wish to do a lot of things on many days of the year with which I might or might not agree. However, I must take on board the views of society. I have often set aside my own views on given issues to present what I regard as being in the best interests of society, not from a paternalistic point of view but from the perspective of society.

Senator Costello said I am telling people they cannot drink on Good Friday. I am not doing that. People can drink all they like on Good Friday.


Mr. Costello: Not in a public house where they want to drink.


An Leas-Chathaoirleach: I will allow Senator Costello to speak later.


Mr. O'Donoghue: It is important to recognise that if people want to have a drink on Good Friday they can do so at home. We are talking about whether they can go into a public house on Good Friday and that is a different issue. I am not being paternalistic but merely reflecting what I consider to be the views held on balance.

The Government contends there is no real demand for licensed premises to open on Good Friday. Senator Connor referred to the joint Oireachtas sub-committee on the liquor licensing laws which was of the view that there should be no change to the law concerning Good Friday. The committee members considered this matter in great detail and they would surely be reflective of what their constituents felt throughout the country. It is interesting, noteworthy and important in the context of coming to a conclusion on this issue that they specifically recommended against opening on Good Friday. I must take that on board.

If we proceeded with the amendment proposed by Senator O'Toole it would meet with considerable opposition from people who genuinely hold the opposite view to his.


Mr. O'Toole: I ask the Minister to tell me why.


Mr. O'Donoghue: There are traditional aspects to the licensing laws which command significant support in our community. Good Friday is a day which many people in our community do not want to see as an open day for licensed premises.


Mr. Quinn: I listened carefully to the Minister. I did not have any views on this issue earlier because it seemed normal to maintain the status quo. I read the views of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association which wants to deal with the source of the problem. I also read the views of the Competition Authority on the legislation and I am aware the Minister is striking a balance. The Competition Authority wants less regulations and laws, whether in the pub or taxi business, and more freedom.

I work in a grocery business where there is no regulation about opening a shop, when it can be opened and who can go into business. There is open competition. The grocery business is used to competition with unfettered controls. We can open our grocery shops when we want to and we do not open all the hours we are allowed to do so. I accept the Minister's point about Christmas Day and Good Friday. There is almost an assumption that if the law states a business can open it is obliged to open. I do not accept that.

I know the Minister must strike a balance but if he accepted the Competition Authority's views and got rid of licensing requirements, other than those related to planning and health and safety, there would be more pubs, off-licences and competition. The Competition Authority suggests that less regulation would be better for the nation.

We have regulations for Christmas Day and Good Friday because of traditional views, as the Minister said, and because sufficient people do not want pubs to open on Good Friday and Christmas Day. There was a law until 1960 or 1961 which stated that pubs could not open on St. Patrick's Day and people could only buy drink at the dog show in the RDS.


Mr. O'Toole: It is an amazing country.


Mr. Quinn: We pass laws because we, as legislators, say we know what is best for the people. There are people who have no homes to go to on Christmas Day so they have nowhere to go because pubs and most hotels are not open. I am not making a strong case to change the legislation but I support the long-term view that we should not impose regulations on the citizenry because we know what is best for them. It would be much better to have fewer regulations and greater freedom to do what we like. If that happened and there was no regulation of opening hours, pubs would still close at 9, 10, or 11 p.m. or midnight, or whatever time suited them, with some staying open until 2 or 3 a.m. Some would open on Good Friday and Christmas Day and some would not.

I do not have Senator O'Toole's experience but I was on an airplane on Good Friday last year and all the passengers were Irish. When the meals were served, I formed the impression that almost everyone had a glass of wine. We speak of tradition, yet it appeared that almost everyone was willing to take a glass of wine. The Minister said people can drink at home. They cannot unless they plan for it in advance. Under this legislation they will not be able to buy a bottle of wine to have with their meal on Good Friday or Christmas Day. I do not argue strongly for the repeal of Good Friday closing, rather that we should get away from the belief that, if a person is allowed to open, he or she is forced to open. We should also get away from the belief that the legislators know what is best for people and that we decide for them.

In general, the Minister has achieved a successful balance in the legislation. I was waiting for him to produce the body of opinion against opening on Good Friday or Christmas Day. I do not hear that view coming from the church or from citizens in general. I do not accept the Minister's view that there is no demand because Senator O'Toole and others will say that many pubs are full on those days and my evidence is that the vast majority of the public seem to be willing to drink wine or whatever else on an airplane on that day. Are we wise to assume that we know better or has the Minister knowledge of a group which has said it is anxious that there would not be opening on these days? I do not argue the case as the Minister has achieved the right balance, but Senator O'Toole has made a strong case and it should be heard.


Mr. O'Toole: The Minister was right when he said pubs do not open their front doors. They open their back doors instead. That is what happens on Good Friday throughout the country, and it makes a sham of politics. I contrast the approach taken here with the approach of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association. I am not surprised by its approach because the chairperson of that august body wrote the definitive work on prejudice and tolerance in society in the two most important tomes which have ever been written. It is from those books that I have learned many of my views on tolerance and prejudice which are pertinent in the context of the debate on immigration and racism.

The only reason which has been given for the retention of Good Friday closing is tradition, but that was of a different Ireland. That is not to say it was better or worse or that people should not be entitled to express their views. My view is in line with what Senator Quinn said - self-regulation beats national regulation any time. The more we devolve responsibility from the national to the local and the individual, the stronger we become as a community. It enables people to take control of their lives. Therefore, the approach of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association is to ensure that young people are protected, that health issues are dealt with, that the Garda has proper resources and that those who sell or hand out drink to young people or others take responsibility for their action. That is the proper way to deal with it.

I will give a simple example. The Education Act requires teachers to reflect on and show consideration for the various denominations and values and diversity of beliefs of different communities. I visited a school in this town this week where more than 25% of the children are from abroad. How does the teacher explain to the parents of those children why pubs do not open on Good Friday? The only reason is one which has a vague connection to religion or tradition. Nonetheless, it means a certain message is sent out.

I do not wish to overstate the matter but I use the Good Friday issue because this argument and discussion should take place. This will probably be voted down and many of those who will vote against it were in pubs on Good Friday. It is ridiculous, a sham and hypocrisy at a time when we are trying to make politics relevant and say that public representation is real and honest.

Pubs are not required to open and people are not required to drink. They can make that decision for themselves. However, people do not demand it nor do they need to demand it. Similarly, a huge number of premises have ignored the law which requires pubs to close between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon. People voted with their feet. If people want to drink on Good Friday, they do not have to plan. They go to the pub, tap on the window and go around the back. Is it not a good thing that local publicans have the sense to deal with these issues and to see that the law is an ass? We should ensure that anyone who votes against this amendment would not dare consider or give a moment's thought to going to a pub for a drink on Good Friday.

The Minister's reference to St. Patrick's Day is a good one. It shows how society changes. It does not mean that it is good or bad, just that different demands arise and that is as it should be. We should be able to show young people that, if pubs are open, it does not mean that they have to go in or, if drink is for sale, that they have to buy it. People must learn to make decisions for themselves.

The argument is similar to the drugs problem in Europe. Every time we have tried to deal with it by stopping the supply chain, something else has cropped up. Designer drugs such as ecstasy have only become available because supply chains have been stopped. People will always find either another supply route or find something to replace what they originally sought. It is not the way to deal with a mature society. Eighty years into independence, people should be old, wise, able and educated enough to decide when and where they can drink. We, as a society, should also put in place the strong, strict rules for people who deal with that drug. The argument has not been made here, although the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association has made it, about the greater social, economic and other negative fallouts from drink than from heroin.

We should take the education route and allow people to deal with this issue rather than bowing in the direction of tradition. Tradition is not static but organic. It changes and continues to evolve. Traditions become such because people are brave enough to take decisions at certain times in our history. They are not cut and dried and do not exist forever. The fact that closing on Good Friday is traditional is no argument.

The Minister spoke of consistency. I have never understood the value of consistency. I have never accepted it as an argument. It is usually used by people who lack creativity, who do not have an answer to an argument, who talk about policy and about the way things were, and who say "If it's not broke, don't fix it". Consistency is not an answer to an argument such as this. If it is time for change, it is time for change. If it is not, so be it. There is no case to retain this measure. People are voting with their feet. It is not as if its repeal would be offensive to any group in society and I would be conscious of that fact. It is a matter of dealing with and responding to the views of majorities and minorities in society, reflecting the diverse values in society at present and recognising that, among other things, Good Friday is also a bank holiday and that people are old, wise, educated and able enough to decide whether they want to drink in the pub on that day.


Mr. Connor: I have not spoken on the issue so far. I was a member of the Oireachtas sub-committee that dealt with the licensing laws and made recommendations. Lifting the ban on trading on Good Friday and Christmas Day was the subject of much discussion. The sub-committee was representative of all the political parties bar the Independents and advertised for views from the public. After a lengthy debate it was decided to recommend no change. The point was made that from the religious point of view Good Friday has very solemn significance for most Christians, and ours is a predominantly Christian society, and no significant argument was given for the lifting of the ban. Coherent arguments have been put forward today, but the sub-committee heard no such arguments, written or oral. Senator Bohan can testify to that as he was also a member of the sub-committee. We came up with the view that there should be change to the interdiction relating to Good Friday and Christmas Day.


Mr. Norris: If we are to make the change proposed in the amendment, we should be consistent and take Christianity out of the Constitution altogether. It is there, and that may be a pity to some people, but it is there.


Mr. O'Toole: That is the Progressive Democrats' responsibility.


Mr. Norris: I walloped the Progressive Democrats well when I said they alienated 50% of the population by taking God out of the Constitution but then lost their nerve and alienated the remaining 50% by sticking him back in again. I do not mind if they want to remove God from the Constitution, though I am a churchgoing member of the Christian community, but God is there and I remind Senators of that legality.

Senator O'Toole said this is not the way to deal with a grown up society. What does he think we are - a grown up society? I certainly do not. I can invoke St. Patrick's Day, which is a very good weapon in my armoury. Let us remember what happened in this city on St. Patrick's Day - the barbarous filth left all around the city for days afterwards in public parks and streets by drunken, ignorant louts. Most of them originated in this country and got into that state of intoxication in inner city pubs. If we want to invoke these examples, let us face the reality. Is this what we want on Good Friday?

I am divided because I believe in pluralism and that the State should be separated from the Church, but on the other hand, I have practical experience of other cultures. I am not unique in this, as most Members are well travelled, but I spend part of the year in Jerusalem. One of the loveliest days of the year is Yom Kippur, when, by law, everything stops and people have a rest. The Sabbath is observed in Israel.


Mr. Costello: What about the Muslims?


Mr. Norris: What about them? I am glad Senator Costello asked that question. He should try to get a drink in Riyadh, and not just on St. Patrick's Day or Good Friday. I wish him the best of luck in ordering a whiskey and soda there - we would see him in the next world.


Mr. Costello: There would be stones thrown in the streets.


An Leas-Chathaoirleach: I will allow Senator Costello in shortly.


Mr. Norris: Let him interrupt. I think he is on the right side.

It would be a pity to have drinking on Good Friday, particularly until we are convinced that people are as grown-up and mature as Senator O'Toole thinks. The Minister has not yet responded to my polite invitation to monitor the behaviour in Parnell Street. Let us look at that. The Garda should give the Minister a report on that and then he can tell the House that this is what we want on Good Friday, the most sacred day of the year in the Christian calendar.

Regarding workers, I doubt there are many junior bar staff who want to work on Good Friday - I am certain there are not. I was in a city centre department store recently and the man who served me was extremely aggrieved because he was being forced to work on Good Friday by his employers. Why? Because of the influx of large British trading houses which have broken the ethos and traditions of this country according to which there was no Sunday or Good Friday trading. He told me he had no religious beliefs but he strongly objected to being bullied and pressurised into working on Good Friday. Why should we extend this to bar staff? They have a horrendously difficult job and must work late hours - after closing they must clean up the pub, close it down and do the cash before coming in early the next morning. It is not fair on them.

This is not a good idea. Although I strongly believe that there should be separation between church and State, this is not much to ask of a country that still poses as Christian. I would love to see our foreign policy dictated by strict Christian principles. That would be an eye-opener for the world. It would be a pity if we opened up Good Friday to the kind of abuse we know will follow on bank holidays. It happens with every other bank holiday and I do not see why we should not have one day of peace, quiet and reflection. People who want to have a drink can do so in their own homes. They can get in a couple of bottles of wine or an iron lung. We heard earlier about the habits of some people on the doorsteps of pubs - the home would be a more appropriate place for that kind of activity also.


Mr. Costello: There is nothing like an Intoxicating Liquor Bill to produce some eloquent speeches. We have heard nothing from the Minister to convince us that there should be a ban on drinking in public houses on Good Friday. It is not the norm in other areas of the commercial world.


Mr. Norris: Enormous pity.


Mr. Costello: Strangely enough, as I said earlier, if one uses public transport one can get a drink and, as Senator Quinn said, if one takes a plane one can get a drink. If one is on the train one can get a drink and if one is a guest in a hotel one can get a drink. Obviously if one is at home one can get a drink. The anomalies are already there.

The Minister said there is no demand and he has given us two arguments. One is that of tradition, but he has not teased out where the tradition is.


Mr. O'Donoghue: I will.

Mr. Costello: Tradition is an imperative in this matter. One could argue this case for the entirety of Easter - Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Easter Sunday. Surely Easter Sunday is as important a day in the Christian calendar as Good Friday, but there are no restrictions. Senator Connor's arguments regarding the sub-committee were not very convincing. It simply could not come to an agreement so it made no recommendation. That is what I believe was the outcome.

The essence of this matter is proscription. The Minister is proposing a total ban and such total proscription is not acceptable. He put forward the argument that there is no demand. Where are the figures, surveys and polls? Who did the Minister consult to show there is no demand? I thought there was enough evidence already. Even if one did not carry out scientific testing, talking to people shows there is an enormous demand for this. If the Minister says there is no demand there is an onus on him to produce figures. An anomaly existed in relation to St. Patrick's Day and the holy hour, but people have come to terms with that and they now consider that those arrangements were stupid. Why is there still such an anomaly on Good Friday?

The Minister raised the question of Christmas Day. We are teasing out whether there should be a ban on having a drink in a public house on Christmas Day. I am not sure there should be. Many people would like to have a drink in a pub on Christmas Day. It is a national holiday and a free day. People like to relax, go to Mass in the morning, have a drink in the pub on the way back and then have Christmas dinner. There is nothing madly sinful abut that and I do not think there would be a mad cry from the Church about it. We have not heard a valid argument why people should not be allowed to drink in a pub for some period on Good Friday.


Mr. O'Donoghue: This could become a circuitous argument and we could run around the mulberry bush all day on this matter. People have articulated their views and I understand them. At the kernel of this is what Senator O'Toole said. He said it would not be offensive to people if Good Friday was an open day. That statement is not correct. It would be offensive to a great many people if Good Friday was an open day. It might not be populist to say that, but it is the truth. In the eyes of thousands of people Christmas Day and Good Friday are particularly significant days in the Christian calendar. There are thousands of people who are firmly of the view-----


Mr. Costello: What about Easter Sunday - the resurrection?


Mr. O'Donoghue: -----that the law should remain as it is. Let us make no mistake about that.

Senator Quinn made an interesting point about groceries, that such a restriction does not apply in to the sale of groceries. I counter that by stating that a supermarket with an off-licence may not open to sell even groceries before 9 a.m. on a weekday or before 12.30 p.m. on a Sunday. That restriction is in place because an intoxicating liquor licence attaches to such premises. It has been argued that a public house is similar in some way to every other form of commercial activity, but that is not correct. Alcohol is a mind-altering substance. It cannot be compared with a pound of butter or a loaf of bread. There is a major difference.

With regard to people having to make preparations if they want to have a drink at home on Good Friday, surely that is no more difficult than people having to make preparations to buy two or three mackerel, as people have to make preparations to eat as well to drink. I cannot understand how that should impose a particular difficulty.

With regard to teasing out the tradition, I explained the situation. Senator Costello posed a difficult and interesting question as to why the situation should be different on another day of enormous significance, Easter Sunday. It would be unfair not to address that point. There has been a tradition in the State of these days being closed days. There are people who hold the view held by Senators Costello and O'Toole and I respect their views, but on balance I had to come up with a conclusion in what I and the Government viewed as being in the interests and the views of society. This is the view we arrived at. That is not to say there are not opposing views. It would wrong of me not to accept and respect those views. I am not being intolerant or prejudicial. If anything, this legislation reflects tolerance and, in many respects, is quite liberal, but it must also be sensible and reflect the views of society.

It may be the case that the position is different in Britain, Australia and America, but I am not Minister for Justice in those countries. My responsibility under the Constitution and the responsibility of these Houses is to our people. In this legislation we are reflecting the deeply held convictions, in many cases, of a great number of our people. With regard to the Churches not entering into the debate, they would be far too sensible to do that.


An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Is the amendment being pressed?


Mr. O'Toole: May I make a final comment?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: I remind the Deputy we have spent quite a while on these amendments.

Mr. O'Toole: In deference to Senator Quinn and the argument he made about the difference between buying mackerel and buying drink, people can buy a few mackerel on Good Friday on the spur of the moment, but they cannot buy alcoholic drink on that day.

What we are doing today is intrinsically bad for politics. It is bad for the way we do our business. I have always believed, to use a line my father used, that the worst kind of law is that which is unimplementable and the next worst kind is that which is not implemented. This law is honoured more in the breach than in the observance and we should reflect on that position.

I agree fully with the point made by Senator Quinn, this is not about forcing pubs to open or people to work when they do not want to, rather it is about giving people a choice and letting them learn to control their lives. The less we give them such choices, the more we will have the outcomes and consequences outlined by Senator Norris where people drink too much. When many people go to a pub, they do not check the time on their watches because they will stay there until closing time, but if they did not know what time the pub would close at, they would have control their time and space and decide when they want to go home.

The same argument applies to the situation on Good Friday. It is a mistake. People are laughing at us. They say we do not realise people can get a drink on Good Friday, that most people go for drinks in pubs on Good Friday and that we do not have the wit to find that out. The rest of the world is disconnected with us in this respect. This legislation presents us with an opportunity to make a mature decision to allow people take control of their lives. The idea that pubs cannot open on Good Friday in this day and age, with the type of multicultural and tolerant society we have and the pluralist approach we want to adopt to all parties and groups, is not the way to proceed.

I regret the Minister does not see a way of accepting this amendment. I will press it.


Mr. Connor: I wish to make a point in the friendliest possible way about what Senator Costello said. He indicated there might not have been agreement at the sub-committee on this point. There was absolute agreement by members of the sub-committee on it. If my memory serves me correctly, on the day it was debated and decided, all seven members of the sub-committee were present, so the views on this point were broadly represented.


Mr. Costello: I have not got an explanation for this anomaly. With regard to what Senator Connor and the Minister said, why was there absolute agreement on this point by members of the sub-committee? The Minister says he respects the views of both sides on this and that it is an important point. Likewise, Senator Connor said there was a good deal of discussion and division on this point. If there was a lot of discussion and division on it, I am surprised there was absolute agreement on it. What are the arguments for it, if people seek avenues to find a drink on a Good Friday? Given that there appears to be conflict with the tradition that some holy days of obligation in the Christian calendar have a ban on drink being consumed in public houses and that other days of religious significance do not, has any research been carried out on this matter? Has the Minister's Department decided to do any work in relation to determining the position? The Minister indicated earlier that he consulted on the matter. Will he clarify the consultation and the background work he engaged in to determine his view that there is no demand and that tradition still holds in relation to the existing position?


Mr. J. Cregan: Senator Costello posed a question as to the reason there was agreement. Having consulted my colleague who was on the sub-committee, he informs me that all seven members were in favour of continuing to close on Good Friday.

In relation to what Senator O'Toole said about the law being flouted and all of us visiting various pubs on Good Friday, if a public house in the part of the country I come from were to open, it would be in the minority and the customers who would want to drink in it would be in the minority. I support the Good Friday closure. Many more people now work on Good Friday than was the case heretofore. We are talking about abstaining from having a drink for one night out of seven. I fully support the continued closure on Good Friday, and we are well able to drink in the part of the country from which I come.


Mr. O'Donoghue: I know that.


An Leas-Chathaoirleach: I do not think that is in dispute, Senator.


Mr. O'Donoghue: As I have said already, this argument is becoming circuitous now. There is no point in me going into the matter further other than to say that the position is that the days concerned are of enormous significance to an enormous number of people, of that there can be no doubt. The Government is of the view that the public, in general terms, favours the continued closure on Good Friday. I am not saying that is by an overwhelming majority but on balance that would appear to be the position and I believe we are reflecting what the general public actually wants in the majority of cases. Obviously there will be disagreements in relation to this matter, and that is perfectly understandable. When Senator O'Toole speaks about consistency being a foolish thing, I am very much reminded of the late, great Brian Lenihan's phrase which was that he considered that consistency was futile. He said that he deplored the futility of consistency.


Mr. O'Toole: I have always agreed with Fianna Fáil on that one.


Mr. Costello: Not only that, but Senator O'Toole practised it.


Mr. O'Donoghue: That much having been said, this matter goes far deeper than consistency and in those circumstances I will respect the views of what I consider to be the majority.


An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Is the amendment being pressed?


Mr. O'Toole: In respect of those people who go for a drink every Good Friday and the fact that many of us like to drink on Good Friday and that the rest of us want to have a tolerant society, I will press the amendment. The Minister is forcing us to break the law next Good Friday. He is forcing half the publicans in the country to break the law and he is forcing us-----


Mr. O'Donoghue: The Senator should address Christmas Day.


Mr. O'Toole: -----to go to the back door of pubs rather than the front door. It is a sad reflection on Irish society.


Mr. O'Donoghue: The Senator did not address Christmas Day.


Mr. O'Toole: I did not because it is not in the amendment. I thought I might be told that it was out of order. I am quite happy to deal with that on Report Stage. I did not want to be drawn down that road. The Minister got enough satisfaction from seeing two Members of this side of the House arguing. I was not going to let him suck me into an argument which had nothing to do with what I was putting forward. We are old enough to buy a drink when we want to, including on Good Friday, and the publicans should be able to open their front doors rather than their back doors. We should do what they do in the Minister's town, in my town, in Tralee and in various other places on Good Friday.


Mr. O'Donoghue: Not in my town.


Mr. O'Toole: Yes, they do. If the Minister wants me to name a pub in Cahirciveen that was open on Good Friday, I will do it.


Mr. Bohan: I cannot agree with Senator O'Toole. I served on the sub-committee with Senator Connor and, as he stated, there was unanimous agreement that we would not change Good Friday closing. Senator O'Toole said that all the publicans' back doors are open on Good Friday. I can only speak for Dublin, but one would be very lucky to get a drink in any pub in Dublin on Good Friday.


Mr. O'Toole: The law is for Dublin people. Down in our part of the country we deal with it differently. We interpret the law.


Mr. Costello: Dublin people have to travel to Kerry for a drink. It is very expensive in Dublin.


Mr. Bohan: I travelled to Killarney on Good Friday - I am from Killarney - and I could not find one pub open from here to Killarney, and I know quite a lot of them. I cannot agree with Senator O'Toole.


Mr. Costello: Did the Senator take public transport to Killarney?


Mr. Bohan: I support the pubs remaining closed on Good Friday.


Question, "That the words proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.


Amendment declared lost.


An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Amendment No. 3 is in the name of Senator Costello. Amendments Nos. 3, 4, 5 and 7 to 16, inclusive, are related and may be taken together by agreement.


Mr. Costello: I move amendment No. 3:

In page 7, line 4, to delete "12.30 p.m." and substitute "7.30 a.m.".


The purpose of this amendment is along the lines we discussed in the previous amendments. The Minister is seeking to be specific in the manner in which he is prescribing the law and he is varying the times in relation to certain occasions. On St. Patrick's Day, for example, a public house cannot open at 7.30 in the morning. It must open at 12.30 p.m. and can remain open until 12.30 a.m. Why should there be a ban on a public house opening at a different time from every other day of the week? The Bill introduces uniformity in relation to opening times, which is welcome. Why should every pub not open at 7.30 a.m.? Why should we not allow pubs to open on St. Patrick's Day until 12.30 p.m.? What is the purpose of that? Likewise there are changes in the times for Christmas Eve and the eve of Good Friday. To continue the uniformity that has been established in relation to every other day of the week we should simply say that a pub may open and, in the words of Senator Quinn, that it is not prescriptive. It does not mean that every pub has to open but we are not laying down the law in terms of opening times on the eve or the morning of certain holidays.

The position in relation to closing times is equally traumatic in that the Minister is seeking to confuse the issue by saying that pubs must close at 11 o'clock in the evening on a Sunday, at 11.30 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and at 12.30 a.m. on the other three days of the week. Why do we need to divide the week into three parts? Why can we not allow pubs to open until 12.30 a.m. and, subject to my earlier amendment, have a licensing authority determine, on the basis of a variety of solid criteria, the way that would operate in a less rigid fashion. We should allow general uniformity but provide flexibility within that.

Where the Minister has allowed uniformity in the opening hours he is now taking it away by making a prescription in relation to certain days that does not make sense. It is this plethora of prescription within the legislation that is unsatisfactory and gives the impression of Big Brother determining how it will operate. We have abolished winter time and the same hours will apply all year, which is extremely welcome. However, including anomalies in this fashion degrades the law and there is no justification for it.

We should look at these amendments as a package, whether to do with the Good Friday provision, the licensing responsibility of the District Court or, as Senator Connor's amendment suggests, a new licensing authority - a provision I would welcome and one to which the Minister indicated that he would be sympathetic in the long term. There is a plethora of restrictions which do not do justice to legislation with which we are trying to come out of the dark ages and to provide flexibility with a system that will work in the context of modern circumstances and needs.

With regard to opening hours, on the Continent it is possible to go to a bar and buy a cup of coffee, a Danish pastry or croissant, a cognac or any type of drink at any time in the morning. Is there any reason we cannot buy a drink at 7.30 a.m.? Why should we wait until 10.30 a.m.? It is a healthy option. Doctors say that a small cognac or brandy in the morning stimulates the arteries and veins. They say it is healthy for people going to work.


Mr. Connor: It would stimulate the arteries.


Mr. J. Cregan: It would stimulate more than the arteries.


Mr. Costello: Such arrangements have not ruined the Continent. People there are able to do this in a much more sophisticated fashion. It is the norm in other countries to be able to have a drink early in the day. In the past we only had early opening houses for dockers and a few other professions. The Minister should examine this matter again. Section 3 is cluttered with over-prescription. Section 3(1) is a mess and he should get rid of it because it is not needed.


Mr. Connor: I support Senator Costello. My amendments merely deal with extended opening hours on Sunday nights. I am at odds with the findings of the sub-committee of the Oireachtas Joint Committee. This legislation proposes to extend trading time on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights until 12.30 p.m. but only until 11.30 p.m. on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

I have been told that Thursday night was included in the nights for late opening because it is a major leisure night in Dublin. Most people are paid on a Thursday and they want to go out, and Thursday night now forms part of the weekend leisure time. Sunday, particularly in rural Ireland, is part of the leisure pattern. More people go out for a social drink on a Sunday than on any other weekend day. In rural Ireland the weekend commences on Friday and people view Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights as times for social drinking and social intercourse.

I know the Minister will remind me that I am a member of the sub-committee and that it recommended that Sunday night trading should end at 11.30 p.m. Senator Bohan is a witness to these matters and he attended the sub-committee's meetings. He knows that unlike the Good Friday issue there was some division among committee members on Sunday trading hours. The majority agreed in the end that we should go for an earlier closing time on Sunday nights.

I have reflected on this matter and listened to the submissions made by the Vintners' Federation of Ireland and the vintners' organisation to which Senator Bohan belongs and they are all in favour of this. We should agree to this amendment and seek to have trading hours extended to 12.30 p.m. on Sunday night for the reasons I have outlined.


Mr. Caffrey: I welcome the main thrust of the Bill. Most of the vintners to whom I have spoken agree with 99% of it. I was somewhat dismayed to see the inordinate amount of time devoted to the question of closing on Good Friday. Publicans need one day off in the year. No publican that I have spoken to-----


Acting Chairman (Mr. Dardis): The Senator should stick to the amendments.


Mr. Connor: He can bring a very good perspective to this debate as he is a publican.


Mr. Caffrey: -----wants to open their pub on Good Friday.

Sunday night closing times should be dealt with in this new legislation. The Minister had a major job to do because he had to deal with centuries of tradition in the licensed trade. Tradition is hard to break with legislation but he has done a good job. Nevertheless, we publicans would be delighted if he would agree to this amendment to allow Sunday night closing time to be the same as Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Sunday night is a night that most people are free to socialise. They do not see the need the go home early on that night. There is no logic behind the Minister's proposal to have an earlier closing time on Sunday night. That is one of the few objections we have to the Bill.


Mr. O'Donoghue: The object of this group of amendments, except Senator Connor's amendment which is confined to increasing Sunday closing time to 12.30 a.m., is to introduce a scheme of permitted hours for all the days of the week, except Good Friday and Christmas Day. All licensed premises would open from 7.30 a.m. until 12.30 a.m. on the following day. The sponsors of this amendment seem to believe that the cure is better than the disease. Had the Government considered it desirable or expedient in the public interest, or the public demanded that licensed premises remain open from 7.30 a.m. until 1 a.m. the following morning every night of the week, then that is what the Government would have provided for. The Government did not provide for such a regime of permitted hours because there is no demand for it. Neither is there a demand for it from the general public nor the various elements in the trade.

The reality is that the package of permitted hours put forward in the Bill is what represents the greatest level of consensus, not just a consensus from within the trade and among consumers but in large measure, if I may use that term, from within this House. They also reflect very closely the hours advocated by the Oireachtas Joint Committee which reviewed the licensing laws and whose report was very important to me when I carried out a detailed examination of this area. I am afraid that nothing that the Senators who advocate these permitted hours have said has convinced me in any way that the hours suggested in the amendments are warranted.

With specific regard to Senator Connor's amendment, the whole issue of Sunday night was considered very carefully. It was concluded that it would not be desirable to extend Sunday night trading hours to those of Thursday, Friday and Saturday. There is a very good reason for that. Whether we like it or not, there is a high rate of absenteeism in the labour force on Monday mornings. There is no question that the consumption of alcohol on Sundays is related to that high rate of absenteeism. If we had decided to proceed along the lines suggested by Senator Connor we would have accentuated that problem. This would be unfair to the people concerned, to employers and generally.

Mr. Connor: I do not accept the Minister's point, although I accept there was a recommendation in the sub-committee's report that pubs should close at 11.30 p.m. I ask the Minister - he should know, coming from a rural area himself - to take into account that Sunday night social drinking is important in rural areas. It is much more important in rural areas than Thursday night in the city. I do not take the point that absenteeism on Monday morning is related to late drinking on Sunday night. There must be a lot of absenteeism on Friday, therefore, because there is late drinking on Thursday night. For that reason, I agree that pubs should open at 10.30 a.m. I have not put my name to the amendments which refer to 7.30 a.m. Thursday night was added as a result of the Dublin lobby.

The Minister and Government Senators would agree with my point about Sunday night and its importance. What we are asking for here essentially brings the law into line with practice. We all know that intoxicating liquor is sold long after the permitted hours on Sunday nights in rural pubs. That is a rural more than a city phenomenon because there are strict union regulations regarding staff stopping the taps at 11.30 p.m. That is not the case with family-run businesses or those staffed by people outside the family in rural areas. I appeal to the Minister to concede on this issue. There should not be three separate closing times in a week - let us have two. Pubs should close at 11.30 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and 12.30 a.m. on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.


Mr. Quinn: Part of the difference of opinion which I voiced earlier related to why there should be a difference in the sale of alcohol from the sale of anything else. Why should there not be open legislation permitting pubs to open any time they like? Senator Caffrey made the point that people might like some time or some days off. To repeat the case, the fact that pubs are permitted to open until a certain time does not mean they have to open until that time. However, the Minister has made a case, and I admit there is an alcohol problem which can be treated differently. He rather jokingly talked about the difference between buying a mackerel and buying something to drink but, in effect, I recognise, not only as an employer but as a citizen, that there is an alcohol problem and legislation is required in that regard. I was impressed by the Minister's statement that the Oireachtas joint committee made recommendations very close to this and, on that basis, I will make the case for less legislation and regulation. It appears that the Minister has got it right in this case or, if not, very close to it, although I understand Senator Connor's argument.


Mr. Costello: I oppose the level of restriction the Minister has imposed in this section. The only argument the Minister made in reply to Senator Connor's suggestion about closing at 12.30 a.m. on Sunday was that many people do not go to work on Monday morning or they go to work under the influence and so on. If the Minister is suggesting that late Sunday night drinking is the cause of people not working properly on Monday morning, surely there is an argument that pubs should be further limited regarding Sunday hours or perhaps closed entirely so that people can go to work on Monday morning. The Minister is extending pub hours on Thursdays and Fridays, and even though people work on Friday they will be able to drink until 12.30 a.m.

There is a tradition in rural areas - the Minister will be well aware of this - that people, including young people, go to the pub on a Sunday evening, perhaps more than any other day of the week. Totally independent of alcohol, they are more likely to go dancing on a Sunday evening than on a Friday or Saturday. That has always been a tradition in the country. The old Dublin tradition was to drink on a Sunday rather than on a Friday or Saturday. I can show the Minister around central Dublin - he might talk to the Taoiseach about this - and he will find that pubs are full to the brim on Sunday evening, more so than on weekend nights. This is the tradition and there is a demand for it. In his own words, the Minister should consider the same opening hours for Sunday.

I want a greater degree of overall uniformity with minimum individual prescription. The reason I opted for pubs to open at 7.30 a.m. is that there would be no obligation on them to open at that time. This is precisely the situation on the Continent and they have not gone under yet. This will be the situation in Britain, even though their laws are more restrictive than ours, but they are going towards deregulation. The Minister is out of line. We are introducing a new intoxicating liquor Bill which has been sitting around for the past couple of years and we will find that no sooner than it is introduced drastic changes will have to be made.

I do not agree that pubs should close at 11.30 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. It should be 12.30 a.m. seven days a week. We are not compelling anybody to avail of those hours. We are providing uniformity and if the Minister accepts our other amendment, which I hope he will continue to consider, the licensing authority can allow the variations in terms of local circumstances, traffic and transport needs, public order and so on. That would bring us far more into line with the Continent and would provide for a more sophisticated regime. I do not believe it would lead to greater drinking. Under the present system people pile up their pints at 11 p.m. on Sunday night and then go elsewhere. They pour on to the streets and that is where the mayhem, which Senator Norris talked about, can occur. This would not occur if we had a more sophisticated regime.

There is no flexibility within the regime which I am seeking. It would improve our approach in dealing with alcoholism. A great number of deaths are related to alcoholism, as is the case in relation to smoking. Such issues must be dealt with in a more complex fashion. If we deal with our licensing laws in a sophisticated fashion we would deal more easily with the ills and evils which arise from abusing alcohol.


Mr. Caffrey: The Minister's explanation for the difference between the closing time on Sunday night and other nights does not stand up to critical analysis. First, the Government assumes that everyone works on a Monday. That is not the case. From now until next October, at any given time there will be hundreds of thousands of holidaymakers here to enjoy themselves and they will want to have a night out on Sunday night. They will not be concerned with working on Monday. The decision whether one drinks or goes home on a Sunday night rests with the individual.

As Senator Connor said, public houses will open late on Thursday night, yet we are not worried about absenteeism on Friday, which is a vital day in the working week. There is a certain amount of leniency in some areas on Monday mornings which would not be permitted on Friday mornings. I do not believe extending opening hours on Sunday night would lead to absenteeism in the workforce on Monday mornings. The Government is assuming everyone goes to work on Monday morning, but that is not the case. I do not wish to be repetitive but tourists are annoyed that they have to go home early on Sunday nights. The Minister should reconsider this amendment in the light of its implications for our major tourism industry.


Mr. O'Donoghue: Many people do not work on Sundays and take that opportunity to relax and enjoy themselves. It must be obvious to everybody that the propensity exists for people to drink earlier on Sundays. There is no doubt about that and we must accept it. The reason we decided that current closing hours on Sundays should remain, except for the period from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., is that experience has shown that absenteeism in the workforce on Mondays is relatively high. The Government is of the view that to allow public houses to stay open later on Sunday nights would accentuate that problem.

Senator Costello stated that public houses in the Taoiseach's constituency are full on Sunday evening. The Taoiseach was adamant - he will not mind my saying this as I consulted with him on this legislation - that closing hours remain at 11 p.m. on Sunday night. He is strongly of the view that to extend those hours would increase absenteeism in the workforce and would not be in the best interests of society.


Mr. Costello: The Taoiseach visits three public houses on Sunday evening and he goes to work on Monday morning.


Acting Chairman: Senator Costello knows we are on Committee Stage of the Bill and will receive every opportunity to make his points.


Mr. O'Donoghue: I am placing on record the Taoiseach's very strong views regarding extended opening hours on Sundays.

Senator Caffrey made the argument that existing closing hours are not conducive to tourism and that everybody does not work on Sundays. It is true that everyone does not work on Sunday but I cannot, in legislating, take localised factors into account. In the same way I cannot take individual positions as being the global situation. I have to legislate in general terms. I must legislate for the greater good as expressed by society. I would be very hesitant to subscribe to the view that the only reason tourists come to this country is to have a drink. That position would not stand up in any country. It may be true that some tourists find our licensing laws more restrictive than those in their own countries but that is not a valid reason for extending opening hours. Bord Fáilte states that extended opening hours is not a universal demand among tourists. Many members of the public, confronted with the prospect of public houses or clubs opening for longer hours, register their opposition on the basis of noise pollution and threats to their personal property from drink induced violence or common nuisance.

I have introduced a system of permitted opening times which will serve both the domestic and tourist market well. At the end of the day all interests cannot and will never be satisfied. I have to strike a balance and in doing so I must be very conscious of the deeply held views of a great number of people. I must try, in so far as I can, to strike a balance which is acceptable to society. We have succeeded in doing so in very difficult circumstances. More than two years of consultation took place before this legislation was published. I accept that not everyone will be satisfied but this is the best I could do.


Dr. Henry: I support the Minister's views. We have a serious problem with alcoholism. As Senator Quinn said, would that we could just leave it so that public houses opened and closed when it suited them. These regulations are as good as we are likely to come by.


Mr. Connor: I am disappointed with the Minister's attitude. We are asking for a small extension of the opening hours on Sunday nights. Such extensions are in existence even before the Act becomes law. Sunday night trading ceases at 11.30 p.m. with a half hour drinking up time. All we are asking for is that we bring the law into line with practice. There will always be difficulties with licensing hours and alcoholism or excessive drinking. Nevertheless, there is a need, certainly in rural Ireland, to extend the opening hours on Sunday night to those applied to the other three weekend nights. This is a new departure in the law. We have previously operated even hours of trading six nights of the week, with an earlier closing time on Sunday night. We are now to have later closing hours on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Extended opening hours on Thursday night means nothing where I live and, I suggest, it means nothing where the Minister lives. Sunday night is very much part of the leisure pattern of a weekend.

It is difficult for me to argue with the Minister's point that I was a member of a committee which recommended, not unanimously but by a majority, that we operate earlier closing on Sunday nights. I was in favour of extending opening hours and I express that same opinion today.


Mr. O'Donoghue: I wish to correct the impression that we are extending the hours of opening on Sunday nights. We are not. Closing hours remain at 11 p.m. with a half hour drinking up time. We are altering the situation on Sunday afternoons between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. because we recognise that many public houses now operate a lunch trade. We are not extending opening hours on Sunday night.

The contention was made by Senator Costello that Sunday night is the big night in rural areas for entertainment etc.

Mr. Costello: It was when I was growing up.


Mr. O'Donoghue: I have consulted very widely with various groups around the country on this legislation and night club owners have informed me that Saturday is the big night for socialising. In recognition of that, I am introducing in this legislation the power for the first time for the courts to grant special exemptions on a Saturday night into Sunday morning.


Mr. Lydon: I support the Minister in this. It is well accepted that there are a number of factories in urban areas that have to reschedule their shifts on a Monday morning to take account of absenteeism, which is due to the amount of drinking that takes place on a Sunday night. People are free as individuals and the Minister cannot either stop or encourage people, just as one cannot legislate for people to be good, but one can certainly encourage them along the way a little. As we are developing an economy where people have a better work ethic then in the past, perhaps, the hours recommended for the Sunday night are reasonable.

On the point made by Senator Henry, we have a significant problem of alcoholism. I work in a hospital where there has been a renowned alcoholics programme for many years. One of the problems I have seen is the reduction in the age of alcoholics. When I started working there about 25 years ago, alcoholics were 60 or 65 years of age. They are now down to 20, 18 or 16 years of age. I would not agree with a blanket ban on people drinking but what the Minister has proposed in the Bill for Sunday nights is a good idea and we should support it.


Mr. Connor: I apologise if I gave the wrong impression. There is no change recommended in the law but the sub-committee recommended a time of 11.30 p.m. and my amendment seeks a 12.30 a.m. closing time. The Minister says there is evidence that attendance at work on a Monday morning is adversely affected by late drinking on a Sunday night. That may be true but the Minister has no scientific evidence for it because there is no scientific study, statistics or figures that relate to the effects of alcohol consumption in Ireland. I have submitted an amendment asking that the Minister's Department would, on an annual basis, be responsible for collecting and publishing statistics, figures and outcomes relating to alcohol consumption in Ireland in order that we could formulate a better informed policy. I hope the Minister will agree with that amendment when we reach it.

Perhaps many people would share the Minister's impression but he has not answered my question adequately. If there is late drinking on a Thursday night, then there will be absenteeism on a Friday morning for the same reason. I cannot argue that there is or may be proven absenteeism on a Friday morning because of late drinking on Thursday night because I have no scientific evidence to prove the point. No State agency is researching it in an organised or scientific way.


Mr. Costello: I am puzzled by the Minister's defence of closing time at 11 p.m. on Sunday and the reason given that people are not able to get to work on Monday. If there was any logic in what the Minister was saying, then he should not be going ahead with a closing time of 11 p.m., he should be bringing the time back farther. The problem exists currently. What is the Minister doing to address it? All he is doing is saying that he will not aggravate it. There is a massive problem with people getting to work on a Monday morning and he will still allow pubs to close at 11 p.m. on a Sunday. Where is the logic in what the Minister is saying?

Surely, one could argue if that people are not getting to work or are getting there in rag order on a Monday morning that there must be a vast abuse of the law if they are going to drink after 11 p.m. Perhaps he could argue it further, that if we are to have uniform opening hours across the week, perhaps the pressure will not be on the Sunday night. The Minister's position is untenable because the existing regime, according to him, produces a difficulty on the Monday morning, but he is not going to make it better or worse, he is going to leave as it is. Surely he should respond to it, yet he is defending it as part of the merits of the legislation.

On Senator Caffrey's point about tourism, we have millions entering this country ever year, especially in the period from St. Patrick's Day to October. If the Minister was consistent in his logic, he would make special provision for those people who will not be working on a Monday morning. Why can he not make provision for them? The Minister has all sorts of prescriptions in this legislation but I cannot perceive the logic to the prescriptions is not perceivable.


Mr. O'Donoghue: Let us be fair and pragmatic. One could not put up a sign in a public house at 11 p.m. to the effect that people who are not working tomorrow morning should go this way.


Mr. Costello: Why have the 11 p.m.? That is creating the problems.


Question, "That the figure proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.


Amendment declared lost.


Mr. Costello: I move amendment No. 4:


In page 7, line 7, to delete "10.30 a.m." and substitute "7.30 a.m.".


Question, "That the figure proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.


Amendment declared lost.


Mr. Costello: I move amendment No. 5:


In page 7, line 7, to delete "11.30 p.m." and substitute "12.30 a.m. on the following day".


Question, "That the figure proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.


Dr. Henry: I move amendment No. 6:


In page 7, line 8, to delete "and the eve of Good Friday".


Question, "That the words proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

Mr. Costello: I move amendment No. 7:


In page 7, line 9, to delete "10.30 a.m." and substitute "7.30 a.m.".


Question, "That the figure proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.


Mr. Costello: I move amendment No. 8:


In page 7, line 9, to delete "11.30 p.m." and substitute "12.30 a.m. on the following day".


Question, "That the figure proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.


Mr. Costello: I move amendment No. 9:


In page 7, line 13, to delete "10.30 a.m." and substitute "7.30 a.m.".


Question, "That the figure proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.


Mr. Costello: I move amendment No. 10:


In page 7, line 15, to delete "12.30 p.m." and substitute "7.30 a.m.".


Question, "That the figure proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.


Amendment declared lost.


Mr. Connor: I move amendment No. 11:


In page 7, to delete lines 17 to 19 and substitute the following:


"(v) any other Sunday between 12.30 p.m. and 12.30 a.m. on the following day;".


Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."


The Committee divided: Tá, 25; Níl, 13.


Bohan, Eddie.

Bonner, Enda.

Callanan, Peter.

Cregan, John

Dardis, John.

Farrell, Willie.

Finneran, Michael.

Fitzgerald, Tom.

Fitzpatrick, Dermot.

Gibbons, Jim.

Glynn, Camillus.

Henry, Mary.

Keogh, Helen.

Kett, Tony.

Kiely, Daniel.

Leonard, Ann.

Lydon, Don.

Moylan, Pat.

Norris, David.

O'Brien, Francis.

O'Donovan, Denis.

Ó Murchú, Labhrás.

Ormonde, Ann.

Quinn, Feargal.

Ross, Shane.



Burke, Paddy.

Caffrey, Ernie.

Coghlan, Paul.

Connor, John.

Coogan, Fintan.

Cosgrave, Liam T.

Costello, Joe.

Doyle, Joe.

Hayes, Tom.

McDonagh, Jarlath.

Manning, Maurice.

Ridge, Thérèse.

Taylor-Quinn, Madeleine.


Tellers: Tá, Senators T. Fitzgerald and Keogh; Níl, Senators Burke and Ridge.


Question declared carried.


Amendment declared lost.


Mr. Costello: I move amendment No. 12:


In page 7, line 18, to delete "12.30 p.m." and substitute "7.30 a.m.".


Question, "That the figure proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.


Amendment declared lost.


Mr. Costello: I move amendment No. 13:


In page 7, line 19, to delete "11.00 p.m." and substitute "12.30 a.m. on the following day".


Question, "That the figure proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.


Amendment declared lost.


Mr. Costello: I move amendment No. 14:


In page 7, line 21, to delete "10.30 a.m." and substitute "7.30 a.m.".


Question, "That the figure proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.


Amendment declared lost.


Mr. Costello: I move amendment No. 15:


In page 7, line 21, to delete "11.30 p.m." and substitute "12.30 a.m. on the following day".


Question, "That the figure proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.


Amendment declared lost.


Mr. Costello: I move amendment No. 16:


In page 7, line 23, to delete "10.30 a.m." and substitute 7.30 a.m."


Question, "That the figure proposed to be deleted stand, put and declared carried.


Amendment declared lost.


Section 3 agreed to.



Government amendment No. 17:

In page 7, lines 32 to 42, to delete paragraph (a) and substitute the following new paragraph:

a) by the substitution of the following for subsection (1) (as substituted by section 8 of the Act of 1960 and as amended by section 3 of the Act of 1962 and section 3 of the Act of 1995):

'(1) Where any business other than the sale of intoxicating liquor (in this section referred to as non-licensed business) is carried on in any premises to which an on-licence or an off-licence is attached, the opening or keeping open of the premises for the purpose of carrying on the non-licensed business shall be permitted at any time.'".


Mr. O'Donoghue: This amendment concerns the prohibition on the hours during which non-licensed business can be carried out by licensed premises. I referred to this earlier during a response to Senator Quinn. The effect of section 3 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1927, even allowing for the amendments to that Act which are incorporated in section 4 of the Bill, is that the hours of trading of supermarkets, including small independent supermarkets and convenience stores, are regulated not just in respect of alcoholic products but also in respect of other products that constitute the bulk of the trade of those outlets, for example, groceries. This means that premises which engage in mixed trading are restricted with regard to the hours during which their non-licensed business can be carried out.

In section 4 as it stands, I have provided for a certain relaxation in that supermarkets with full off-licences attached may open for non-licensed trade at 7.30 a.m. However, having listened to some of the arguments put forward on Second Stage, notably by Senator Quinn, and following consultations I have had with the retail group of IBEC, I have given this matter further consideration. I am convinced that the licensing code should, as far as is possible, avoid controlling the times during which supermarkets and convenience stores may open to engage in their business of selling groceries and other non-alcoholic products.

The current law has created difficulties for stores and consumers alike. To comply with the law many stores have created separate licensed areas for the sale of intoxicating liquor. This means that while those stores may open their non-licensed premises whenever they wish, customers who frequent these stores are inconvenienced by having to make two separate purchases in two distinct parts of the same store. This has created a great deal of understandable dissatisfaction among customers and, in addition, many small independent stores would not have the resources or the space to make such structural alterations to their premises.

On the other hand, stores that have licensed their entire premises are prohibited from opening for the sale of non-alcoholic products at certain times. Moreover what is now clear more than ever is that the shopping patterns of consumers are changing in line with new work patterns - reference to this was also made on Second Stage here. It was pointed out that some major employers in the e-commerce and other fields operate shift work which means that people could opt to do their shopping at 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. While I believe the new arrangements in the Bill go a good deal of the way towards easing the situation, I am determined to introduce legislation which will stand the test of time. For these reasons, therefore, I have decided to remove from the licensing code that provision which stipulates when a licensed shop may open to sell non-alcoholic products. I am proposing the amendment to section 4 which will allow premises to open at any time to engage in their business of selling groceries and other non-alcoholic products. The times such premises could open for the sale of intoxicating liquor would, of course, continue to be regulated by virtue of paragraph (b) of section 4.

I recommend this amendment to Senators and I believe it may receive support from all sides of the House.


Progress reported; Committee to sit again.


Sitting suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.

Intoxicating Liquor Bill, 2000: Committee Stage (Resumed)

Debate resumed on Government amendment No. 17:

In page 7, lines 32 to 42, to delete paragraph (a) and substitute the following new paragraph:

"(a) by the substitution of the following for subsection (1) (as substituted bysection 8 of the Act of 1960 and as amended by section 3 of the Act of 1962 and section 3 of the Act of 1995):

'(1) Where any business other than the sale of intoxicating liquor (in this section referred to as non-licensed business) is carried on in any premises to which an on-licence or an off-licence is attached, the opening or keeping open of the premises for the purpose of carrying on the non-licensed business shall be permitted at any time.'".

Mr. Quinn: I express my appreciation to the Minister for accepting the points made on Second Stage. I am particularly impressed by the wording of the amendment as it overcomes the problem. I wear the hat of my business on occasions but, in this case, I was equally concerned that the law was not being adhered to by small shops in the main throughout the country.

The shop in which I buy my newspaper on a Sunday morning has a wine licence and thousands of such shops are open to sell newspapers rather than alcohol. It appeared the law was being broken and I was most concerned about the danger of the law being shown disrespect. I do not only refer to Sundays but also other times, for example, if a shop had a wine licence and opened before 9 a.m. it was breaking the law. I am delighted the Minister understood the case and responded to it. I appreciate the speed with which he recognised the problem and the manner in which he solved it.

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue): I thank Senator Quinn for his kind remarks. If a premises had a wine licence, it was not covered by those restrictions. The intoxicating liquor laws are a legal maze; approximately 55 statutes govern the area. However, if one had a wine licence, the restrictions did not come into force.

Mr. Quinn: I am educated every day. For years I thought the law was being broken. I thank the Minister.

Mr. Connor: We hope that later the Minister will allow them to sell beer with a wine licence.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Costello: I move amendment No. 18:

In page 8, line 6, to delete "8.00 a.m." and substitute "7.30 a.m.".

This amendment follows on from Senator Quinn's remarks and also amendment No. 17, which is welcome. My amendment is now redundant because it was postulated on the 7.30 a.m. opening hour which applies to trading premises such as supermarkets. However, they were not allowed to sell intoxicating liquor until 8 a.m. As they will not now open at 7.30 a.m, there are no implications in that regard.

However, one can go into a supermarket that has a licence to sell spirits, wine and beer and buy all the other goods one wants, such as bread and potatoes, but one cannot buy alcohol. This is an anomaly. People who go there usually to purchase goods of that nature should be entitled to do so. The hour of 8 a.m. appears to have been pulled out of the air. Why can one purchase alcohol between 8 a.m. and 10.30 p.m. on weekdays but not at 7.30 a.m. or another time if there is no restriction on the opening hours? The Minister should revisit this area in light of amendment No. 17. I hope he will consider it for Report Stage.

Mr. O'Donoghue: Paragraph (b) introduces for the first time an opportunity for shops with an off-licence attached, typically a supermarket or convenience store, to sell intoxicating liquor outside normal permitted hours. Such shops will be permitted to sell liquor from 8 a.m. on weekdays, when normal opening time on those days currently is 10.30 a.m, for the sale of liquor on or off the premises.

In so far as I am aware, the proposal in the Bill has received a broad general welcome. There is nothing to suggest that the new opening time is not adequate. The addition of an extra half hour as suggested in the amendment has the appearance of mere tinkering with the provisions of the Bill. However, I assume it has been suggested by Senator Costello because it is in line with his earlier amendment relating to the opening times for pubs at 7.30 a.m. As there was a lengthy discourse on that matter, there is little need for me to expand on why I do not intend to accept the amendment.

Mr. Quinn: I understand Senator Costello's case. The hour of 8 a.m. is probably fine for the vast majority of the public. It will be useful because, for example, in the past if somebody wanted to buy the ingredients for a Christmas cake and wanted to purchase a pint of stout for it, he or she could not do so until 10.30 a.m. The 8 a.m. exception is acceptable, although 7.30 a.m. would be fine, as would 7 a.m. or 6.30 a.m. However, the Minister has done much in this area.

Mr. Costello: My point related to the intended standard opening hour of 7.30 a.m. It appeared incongruous to include 8 a.m. when 7.30 a.m. applied on the other days of the week. In view of the change the Minister introduced in amendment No. 17 to permit non-licensed business to open at any time, it is strange that he will not deal with the licensed business which operates in a similar way under the same roof. Senator Quinn said people are not likely to buy quantities of drink to consume at 7.30 a.m. or 8 a.m. They would probably buy it to drink in the evening at dinner or with the Sunday roast. We should allow flexibility rather than putting in an unnecessary restriction.

Mr. O'Donoghue: I do not mean to be argumentative or confrontational. I agree with Senator Costello who said he doubted if people would buy large quantities of drink at 7.30 a.m. in a convenience store or supermarket. However, he might accept there is something incongruous about his accepting that while, at the same time, asking me to accept an amendment that public houses should be open at 7.30 a.m.

Question, "That the figure proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

Section 4, as amended, agreed to.


Government amendment No. 19:

In page 8, between lines 37 and 38, to insert the following new subsection:


"(2) Section 4 of the Public Dance Halls Act, 1935, is amended by the insertion of the following subsection:

'(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1) of this section, a public dancing licence granted by virtue of this Act shall be deemed to be a licence that permits public dancing in the place to which the licence applies for a period not exceeding thirty minutes after any period in respect of which a special exception order (within the meaning of the Licensing Acts, 1833 to 2000) is in force in respect of that place.' ".


Mr. O'Donoghue: The changes being made to special exemption orders by section 5 of the Bill as it stands mean that licensed premises with a public dance licence may obtain a special exemption up to 2.30 a.m. However, it has been brought to my attention that situations may arise where public dance licences may permit dancing only up to 1 a.m. or 1.30 a.m. Such licences would operate for a year and are renewed annually under the annual licensing District Court period. The amendment seeks to ensure that situations do not arise whereby licensed premises which have special exemption orders may find themselves having to end the dancing before the end of the special exemption. This would not make sense.

The solution I propose is that where a special exemption order is in force the dance licence will be deemed to be a licence that will permit dancing for a period beyond the period of the special exemption, that is, up to the end of the period of drinking up time that will now be permitted at the end of a period of a special exemption. This will have the effect of ensuring that the status quo obtains in relation to dancing and extended opening hours and that future situations will not be created where there might be an anomaly as between the dance licence and the special exemption or where the dance licence might serve to limit the time to which a special exemption might be granted. It is for these reasons that I recommend this amendment to the House.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 5, as amended, agreed to.


An Cathaoirleach: Amendments Nos. 20 and 21 are related and may be discussed together.

Dr. Henry: I move amendment No. 20:

In page 9, lines 12 and 13, to delete subparagraph (iii).

I tabled these amendments because I am not sure it is practical to include these subparagraphs in the Bill. No one wants a restaurant or hotel to turn into a pub but we must introduce practical restrictions. I thought the time at which people can consume alcohol in a hotel or restaurant was covered by subparagraphs (i) and (ii) which state that intoxicating liquor is "ordered by that person at the same time as a substantial meal is ordered by him or her" and "consumed at the same time as and with the meal". The latter could be difficult to implement.

Subparagraphs (iii) and (iv) state that intoxicating liquor is "supplied and consumed in the portion of the premises usually set apart for the supply of meals" and "paid for at the same time as the meal is paid for". It could be easy to run into difficulties, particularly if a person decides to leave the table in the restaurant and moves to the waiting area. Could they fall foul of the law if they move to an area adjacent to the restaurant? Amendment No. 21 relates to paying for the meal. If a meal has been paid for and someone offers to buy brandies for everyone a quarter of an hour later, will they fall foul of the law?

This is becoming complicated and it would be easier to delete these two subparagraphs. I do not know people who have tried to use a restaurant as a pub. These subparagraphs do not add to the Bill and they will only cause grief to those trying to enforce the law.

Mr. Quinn: I support Senator Henry. The Minister has been flexible and rational during these discussions. I do not know what he does on Christmas Day but a person can have alcohol with a meal in a restaurant on Christmas Day "between 1.00 p.m. and 3.00 p.m.". However, what happens if a person is asked if they want a drink at 3 p.m.? There may be reasons why this is so tightly controlled. Subparagraphs (iii) and (iv) state that intoxicating liquor is "supplied and consumed in the portion of the premises usually set apart for the supply of meals" and "paid for at the same time as the meal is paid for". That is between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Christmas Day but it also applies to other days. Is the Minister flexible enough to admit that is a little stiff and straight and to waive it?

Mr. Connor: It is difficult to understand why alcohol must be consumed "in the portion of the premises usually set apart for the supply of meals" and that it must be "paid for at the same time as the meal is paid for". At least one restaurant which I go to frequently has a large dining area but people usually retire to other rooms beside it for a drink. People could break the law by leaving the dining area and going to an ante-room, such as the antechamber, for a drink. I do not understand the rationale behind this provision. I support Senator Henry's amendment.

Mr. O'Donoghue: Under existing legislation hotels and restaurants enjoy more liberal hours of trading than public houses where alcohol is supplied in conjunction with a meal. The laws contained in section 13 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1927, as amended by the Act of 1988, provide that a premises which is a hotel or restaurant is entitled to supply intoxicating liquor in conjunction with a meal to persons on the premises for up to an hour later than it is permitted to remain open for the sale of alcohol only. Alcohol can be served in conjunction with food between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Sunday afternoons and between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. or 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Christmas Day. In addition, more liberal trading hours are permitted subject to the conditions that any alcohol served is served in conjunction with a meal, is ordered and consumed at the same time as the meal, is supplied and consumed in the portion of the premises set aside for meals and paid for at the same time as the meal. I ask Senators to forgive me if that sounds like an obstacle course.

Section 6 further amends section 13 of the 1927 Act. The purpose of the new section is to provide for an alteration in the permitted hours with regard to the serving of alcohol with a meal in a hotel or restaurant subject to the conditions which already apply. It extends permitted hours in these circumstances by one hour over and above the time in which these premises may lawfully sell intoxicating liquor. This section is necessary to maintain the differential which exists for the hotel and restaurant business in relation to the sale of alcohol in conjunction with a meal.

However, those parts of section 13 of the 1927 Act which specify the conditions under which alcohol is to be served in hotels and restaurants remain unchanged.

Senator Henry's amendments propose to delete the provisions which specify that intoxicating liquor must be supplied and consumed in the portion of the hotel or restaurant usually set apart for the supply of meals and paid for at the same time as the meal is paid for. I appreciate that her amendments are well intentioned. However, they do not take into account those provisions in law which distinguish the restaurant or hotel business from the public house business. The existing law is specific. It is based on the premise that the sale of alcohol is ancillary to the main restaurant business. A certain relaxation of permitted hours is provided to allow restaurants to operate in line with public expectation and demand, but this is contingent on certain conditions regarding how and where alcohol is served and paid for.

Were I to accept these amendments, alcohol could be served anywhere in a restaurant or hotel to all comers, not just diners in a restaurant or paying guests in a hotel, during times when other licensed premises would be obliged to remain closed. The effect of the amendment, were it to be accepted, would be to create an anomaly regarding the circumstances under which one could obtain intoxicating liquor. The licence which permits the hotelier or restaurateur to sell intoxicating liquor would be open to abuse.

This provision has worked well and I do not detect any demand, from the restaurant or hotel trade or the public, for change. There is nothing in existing law or by virtue of section 6 that precludes patrons from splitting the bill for a meal between them in such a way that one person pays for the drinks and the other for the meal. What is not permitted is for persons to use a restaurant as if it were a pub for the purpose of obtaining after-hours drinks only. In short, I do not want to bring about a situation where people leave a public house and decide to go to a restaurant and drink there instead.

Dr. Henry: That is not what I suggested. Section 13(i) and (ii) as inserted by section 6 are sufficient to prevent that. They state that drink must be ordered by the person at the same time as a substantial meal is ordered. I have a great deal of sympathy for restaurant owners who say that pubs are competing with them in the restaurant business. The amount of food now consumed in pubs, some of it very good, is nearly of the same order as that consumed in restaurants. I would bet that more money is taken in for food at lunchtime than is taken in for drink. Could a survey be done on that? I believe it to be so.

What would the Minister describe as that part of the premises which is usually set aside for the supply of meals?

Mr. O'Donoghue: The part of the premises which would be set aside for meals would be the restaurant in a hotel, for example. The restrictions would apply in the restaurant part of the hotel. That is one example and there are others of which I can think. Furthermore, under existing legislation there is a question of providing a specific portion of the premises for the sale of intoxicating liquor in a restaurant and various rules govern that.

Dr. Henry: What about the waiting area? Will that be covered? What if a few tables are on the street outside the restaurant? Will they be covered? Will it be all right to drink at them?

Mr. O'Donoghue: Those areas will not be covered.

Dr. Henry: They will not?

Mr. O'Donoghue: No.

Dr. Henry: That is the problem. If staff are trying to clear tables and settle up the premises, they cannot move people to outside seating, so that impedes business. That is what I thought, so I am glad I tabled the amendment. Business will be hampered. Often proprietors will not want to keep staff hanging on within the restaurant area while people are finishing up, yet such people cannot go out to the waiting area. That is what I suspected.

Mr. Quinn: I support Senator Henry. This is well covered by section 13(i) and (ii) as inserted by section 6. In one case the intoxicating liquor must be ordered by a person at the same time as a substantial meal is ordered by them. That covers the Minister's point. In the other case, it must be consumed at the same time as and with the meal. That appears to be sufficient. The other requirements are additions which came from nowhere. I would love it if the Minister accepted our point and allowed them to be deleted.

Mr. O'Donoghue: There are anomalies in the intoxicating liquor laws and I would be the last to defend the indefensible. We will deal later with the issue of credit cards. One cannot use a credit card to buy intoxicating liquor, for example. Other restrictions also exist. In due deference to what both Senators said, I will re-examine this and return to it.

Dr. Henry: That is splendid. I would not like anyone to be arrested in Caherciveen because they were sitting in the waiting area.

Mr. O'Donoghue: No one is ever arrested in Caherciveen.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 21 not moved.

Section 6 agreed to.

Amendment No. 22 not moved.

Sections 7 and 8 agreed to.


An Cathaoirleach: Amendments Nos. 24 and 25 are alternatives to amendment No. 23 and all may be discussed together by agreement.

Mr. Connor: I move amendment No. 23:

In page 10, lines 29 to 34, to delete paragraphs (a) and (b) and substitute the following new paragraphs:


"(a) in subsection (1) by the deletion of ': provided that, where the period aforesaid exceeds nine days, the exemption shall be limited to such times and days as it thinks fit during a period or periods (not exceeding three) comprising in all not more than nine days' and substitute 'provided that the period aforesaid shall not exceed 12 days.'


(b) and by the deletion of subsection (4).".

This seeks greater flexibility in what are called "area exemptions". The House will know that, during a local festival, licensed premises in the area can apply to the court for an exemption for late drinking to cover the period of a festival. There have been restrictions to that, perhaps rightly so. Heretofore, nine days in the year could be given in area exemptions. The Minister has decided to extend that to 12 and that is welcome.

We are trying to change the inflexibility of having to seek them in groups of three. Where a local festival is organised, the practice is that it is usually held over a weekend and that late exemptions are given from Thursday night to Saturday night or Friday night to Sunday night. I am seeking flexibility for small villages such as mine where a local race meeting is held on one night once a year and where there would be a demand for a late exemption on that one night. Unfortunately we cannot obtain it and we must apply for a group of three. The requirement of considerable prior notice being given could be included. If people know a local race meeting is being held on a date in July, for example, there are months of notice. Therefore, organisers applying for an exemption could be obliged to give three or four months' notice to the court.

That is all we seek. It is reasonable and the Minister should look at it reasonably. Perhaps there could be a compromise in that there would also have to be a certain number of groups of two or three, but there should be sufficient flexibility to allow for one or two night exemptions on a number of occasions during the year and not just in these groupings of three.

Mr. Moylan: Allowing one night exemptions would mean that there could be one late night per month. I am not in favour of that. I may have a vested interest in not allowing it, but groups of three for a festival or something similar is adequate. I would be against the Minister changing that to 12 singles or six doubles. Late night exemptions are a move in the right direction as they give business people and publicans a certain opportunity, but I would be against changing the current arrangement to Senator Connor's proposal.

Mr. O'Donoghue: Section 9, as it stands, provides for an increase in the number of area exemption orders from nine to 12 days. The 12 days may be divided into not more than four periods consisting of one or more consecutive days. Area exemption orders are granted under section 10 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1962, only to places outside the Dublin city borough boundary. They are granted where there is a particular local area need identified and accepted by the court that the area exemption order is necessary in order to accommodate an influx of persons visiting an area because of some period of special festivity.

The effect of the amendments would be to see the provision relating to area exemption orders further amended so that these can be granted in respect of any 12 days and not as groups of three days. This would run counter to the idea behind an area exemption order, which is to cater for a special event that is unusual and which takes place infrequently, as well as making the order necessary for the accommodation of the extra persons on the occasion of the special event. Typically, these events would run over a number of days, such as a festival and not on a single day. Section 9 as it stands is a useful concession in that it extends in effect the number of orders that can be made while retaining the character of an area exemption order. I am not disposed towards accepting these amendments.

The other kind of order is a general exemption order, which differs from an area exemption order in that it can be applied for in court and can be granted in respect of events such as a market or fair. I am the first to accept that the intoxicating liquor laws are labyrinthine in complexity and are spread over almost 55 Acts. Some of the provisions can be quite archaic, but this provision, although it goes back to the 1962 Act, has allowed for orders to be availed of successfully and those orders work. Senator Connor said that we should perhaps look at the concept of people having to accept four groups of three days, which is an interesting idea, but the argument against that is that this provision is meant for a special event that brings people to an area. A special event is not something that occurs, in the context of this provision, for one or even two days.

If a person wants an exemption for a special event he or she must apply for a special exemption order provided he or she has a public dance licence. From here on in one will not need a restaurant certificate for a special exemption; one will need just a publican's licence and the dance licence. The latter is not easy to get as there are various fire regulations and so on attached, which is as it should be given our experience of tragedies in Ireland.

Senator Connor's point is well made, but my difficulty is that a person seeking a special exemption should have a dance licence just like anyone else seeking such an exemption. In other words, would the effect of Senator Connor's proposal be that pubs with no dance licence would be able to avail of the area exemption order to circumvent the necessity for a special exemption order? I do not want that to happen for many reasons. We will look at this and come back to it.

Mr. Connor: I am grateful to the Minister for his flexibility. Rather than six groups of two I would be willing to agree to grouping the exemptions in threes, but there should be a small cohort, maybe three or four, that could be applied for singly. That flexibility should be brought in. In practice, the 12 area exemptions will not be sought for 12 different days throughout a year. Most festivals last for a weekend - we are talking about three days, usually from Friday to Sunday. We should have flexibility in that at least three days could be applied for individually, although I do not want to compromise my amendment.

Mr. Moylan: If there is a wedding or 21st birthday in an area, will that afford publicans the opportunity to claim a special occasion once a month if we award these exemptions singly? The Minister was generous in moving towards four groups of three per area, as we all know most towns require special concessions for festivals and so on. However, we could create special occasions if we take this route and those special occasions might not be created for the right reasons.

Mr. Connor: There are always a few nights in every year.

Mr. Moylan: Maybe if the All-Ireland hurling title is won.

Mr. O'Donoghue: The last thing I want to do is to stop people enjoying themselves in a reasonable way. That is not the intent of the legislation. At the same time I have stressed the need to be responsible and sensible in relation to the Bill.

Senator Connor has a point. Often a festival in a rural town may run for just a weekend. The festival may be on Friday and Saturday but publicans are obliged to take another exemption - for Sunday or Thursday - when they may not have as much business. That said, I do not want area exemption orders to be used as a way of circumventing the requirement for a special exemption order. If I allowed that I would be saying there is no great requirement for a public dance licence and all the stringent conditions attached to it.

Senator Moylan referred to 21st birthday parties. I do not think that a young person of 21 will have a drinking party in a pub - at least I hope not - for his or her 21st birthday. I do not think they would want to. Young people want music and dancing and the music would be loud as possible as far as I am aware. I am conscious of Senator Connor's point and would like to look at the possibility of allocating exemptions in six groups of two.

Mr. Connor: Or groups of three.

Mr. O'Donoghue: My objective is to facilitate the House and Senator Connor in a reasonable way in order to benefit the greater good. Let us have another look and return to this on Report Stage.

Mr. Costello: These related amendments refer to the 12 area exemptions to be allowed in the course of a year. What the Minister has said is a movement in the right direction but if we are to allow a public house to apply for 12 area exemptions for a festival or whatever function that is appropriate, it seems terribly restrictive to say they can only be applied for in groups of three. There should be some flexibility in relation to the number of days for which the area exemption would be allowed, either two by six or whatever, to allow the courts to decide on the matter. An application will have to be made anyway and it should be a matter for the courts to decide what is appropriate. I would have thought that the legislation did not need to specify in this area other than to give some guidelines.

Mr. O'Donoghue: As a matter of courtesy to Senator Costello, I acknowledge that he has put down an amendment also in relation to this matter. I have indicated to Senator Connor, in regard to his amendment and indeed that of Senator Costello, that we will examine the possibility of being more flexible in this respect. I want to give the matter more consideration and we will come back to it on Report Stage next week.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments Nos. 24 and 25 not moved.

Section 9 agreed to.

Sections 10 and 11 agreed to.

Amendment No. 26 not moved.

Section 12 agreed to.


Mr. Costello: I move amendment No. 27:

In page 11, line 45, to delete "shall" and substitute "may".


It is with some trepidation that I move this amendment because I understand what the Minister is trying to do, that is, impose a mandatory closure of a premises if an under age person is found to have been consuming intoxicating liquor on the premises. It is a general principle of criminal law that mandatory sentences are not imposed "cold"; they have to be taken in context. The offence may have happened for the first time, yet a mandatory sentence is being imposed. We are really talking about habitual offenders. If somebody is known to have committed this offence the full rigours of the law should apply to them, and that should be reflected in the legislation. Including the word "shall" rather than "may" is probably not that helpful. It would be better to leave it to the discretion of the courts as to how the offence will be punished, rather than providing for the mandatory closing of a premises for a first offence.

There may be many cases where people get through the process by a nod or a wink or whatever. They may be habitual offenders in this regard and they may be able to escape the net. It would be better to apply the full rigours of the law to people who are shown to be flouting it.

Mr. Connor: I agree with Senator Costello. These matters should always be left to the discretion of the court hearing the case. I do not agree with making it a form of edict, by saying that it shall be rather than it may be done. I do not agree with it in that context. I have little to add to what Senator Costello said, other than to say that there should always be discretion in relation to these matters and the wording of the Bill should be seen to be open to the discretion of the courts.

Mr. Caffrey: I agree with Senators Costello and Connor in relation to mandatory sentencing. We all know that we must provide for special circumstances and to impose a mandatory restriction is taking it too far in this context.

Mr. Quinn: We are now coming to the part of the Bill that concerns people most, that is the whole question of under age drinking. We have to take a firm stand here and do whatever can be done to discourage anyone who is tempted knowingly to serve people who are under age. We know that under age drinking is going on.

The Minister has thought out this aspect very well. When I first looked at it I thought it was a very heavy weapon to use but what the Minister has done seems to be acceptable. He has given the power to the courts to decide and he is also limiting their powers, to a certain extent, by including "not exceeding seven days in respect of a first offence". He is also limiting their power in another way which I have not seen before. In addition to any penalty imposed, an order will be made for the closure of the premises concerned or any part thereof. The Minister is giving the judge a lot of flexibility and I cannot oppose that. I said earlier today that we should allow the courts make decisions in their own area rather than have the Minister decide everything for all offences.

On balance this is acceptable. It says "shall" rather than "may" and I understand the reason Senator Costello is making the case. That would give more flexibility to the judge rather than the other way around. The judge has the flexibility to close part or all of the premises but not for more than seven days on the first offence. On balance we need a strong hand if we are going to provide for tight controls, to the extent of scaring those who may run foul of this measure.

In my own business some years ago, we found the danger of serving alcohol in a supermarket such that we were afraid of breaking the law. We upped the age limit to 21 years and would not serve anyone unless they could prove they were 21 years old. We have now upped it to 25 years because some 16 year old males with a beard can look a lot older and some efforts were made to find people who were breaking the law. The words we use in our sign are, "If you're lucky enough to look under the age of 25, please have your ID with you". It is a clever and rather subtle way of getting around the issue.

The onus of responsibility is definitely on the seller of alcohol to make sure that alcohol is not sold to somebody who is under age. On balance the Minister has probably got it right in that it is fairly tough. I have no problem with giving more freedom to the judge in this case. This is a strong weapon in the judge's hands and it should scare the living daylights out of anybody who is ever tempted to take a weak attitude towards the sale of alcohol to people who are under age.

Mr. Moylan: This is a very important section. There is a real problem with under age drinking and we see the results of that among our young people. I am involved with young people in sport but we often have a problem where, as a result of drink, no matches are held on Sundays. Under age drinking also affects church and even work attendance.

I would be concerned about the temporary closure of a premises in the event of false ID being shown because it is often difficult for the publican. If an ID is shown, there is a tendency to serve them. Unfortunately, the IDs can be false. This is an important section but it should be examined in more detail.

Dr. Henry: Senator Costello was anxious that the word "shall" should be replaced by the word "may". It is probably better to leave the section the way it is worded by the Minister. Judges are given a great deal of discretion. The section provides that the closure of the premises concerned or a part thereof shall be for a period not exceeding seven days in respect of the first such offence. Such a premises could be closed for half a day or for whatever number of days a judge decides. A minor reprimand could be given to ensure that if a publican is taken in by false identification papers, he or she will be more careful the next time.

Legislation such as this has been in place in America for decades. It has been important in ensuring young people have not been served intoxicating drink in what we would describe as bars. I do not know why anyone would want to go to an American bar where one could break one's neck without any drink taken having to make one's way in the dark even at noon.

The Minister is right in what he has provided in this section. We may have been slightly amused by Senator Ridge's descriptions of what happens when teenagers have consumed intoxicating liquor. In the case of an enormous number of teenage pregnancies, teenagers will say drink was involved. We know it is a factor in many traffic accidents. It is better that the section remains as it is worded.

Senator Quinn must have had for a few years that sign displayed in his premises stating that people under the age of 25 will not be sold alcoholic drink and it has not resulted in his business going to the wall. If such a sign was displayed in other premises, I am sure it would not result in their going to the wall. It is worthwhile retaining the wording of the section.

Mr. Bohan: I have little to add to what I said on this section on Second Stage. I am concerned about the provision that a court could impose a mandatory seven day closure of a premises for a breach of the law in this respect. The publicans I represent, and I can speak for publicans throughout the country, would have no time for a publican who serves alcohol to under age customers. It is extremely difficult for a publican to determine whether girls especially are aged 17 and half, 18 or 19. Most publicans would be happy if the imposition of a penalty for a breach of law in this area was left to the discretion of the judge rather than a court imposing a mandatory seven day closure of a premises.

The Garda know the houses that abuse the law by serving alcoholic drinks to under age persons. If a garda can prove that in respect of a public house, I would have no problem with a penalty imposing the closure of such a premises. In a case where six, seven or eight people are drinking at a table in a pub where there are 200 to 300 on a Saturday night and one person at that table orders drinks for the group, it is impossible for the person serving to distinguish which of those people is aged 17, 18 or 19.

Many fictitious identity cards are used. There is no national identity card. If there was, it would solve the problem but it will be some time before the State issues such a card. As I said on Second Stage, I know of a case where the owner of a premises in which a function was being held, which no one under the age of 19 was allowed enter, had two people on the door checking ID. A bit of a fracas broke out on the premises and a girl was brought to the local Garda station. She had an ID card stating she was 19 years of age and the gardaí involved admitted she looked 19 years old or more, but it transpired she was only 16 years old. That highlights the dreadful pitfalls in this area for the licensed trade.

I ask that the imposition of a penalty for a breach of the law in this respect be left to the discretion of the court. I do not deny that some pubs serve alcoholic drink to those who are under age. Senator Quinn mentioned the abuse of the law in this respect in a premises in the Malahide area of which I am aware. I do not approve of it and neither does my association. While there are black sheep in the trade who should be dealt with, 99.5% of publicans in the country do not tolerate under age drinking.

This penalty is a draconian punishment to inflict on somebody who unknowingly serves alcoholic drink to a person who is six months under the age of 18. In such a case a garda would be able to prove to a court, without any shadow of doubt, that a particular house was abusing the law in this area. A number of such houses are well known and judges have threatened not to renew their licences in recent years. Those houses should be closed permanently. A publican who is doing his best to run a good house and not serve anyone under age can have his premises automatically closed for seven days if, through some misfortune, a person who is under age slips through the net and an ambitious sergeant or inspector discovers that person on the premises.

I ask the Minister to reconsider this provision when the Bill is taken in the lower House and to leave the automatic seven day closure of a premises for such a breach to the discretion of the court and allow it to determine if a publican is guilty. If the law in this area is abused, my association would have no time for that type of operation. It is draconian to close a premises for seven days for a first offence in this respect and for 14 days for a second offence, but if the law is being abused on an ongoing basis I have no problem with the imposition of such a penalty.

This is a good Bill. I congratulate the Minister and his advisers on the work they put into it. It seeks to cater for everyone. Senator Costello referred to Sunday night closing.

An Cathaoirleach: The Senator must stick to the amendment before us.

Mr. Bohan: I would favour a closing time of 11.30 p.m. rather than 12.30 a.m. With regard to the imposition of the mandatory closure of a pub for a breach of the law in this respect, I ask the Minister to reconsider that penalty and to leave the imposition of a penalty to the discretion of the court.

Mr. J. Cregan: I support the sentiments expressed by Senator Bohan and others. It is necessary to change the law to ensure the scourge of under age drinking is dealt with properly as there have been difficulties and technicalities in terms of reasonable doubt. People knowingly sold drink to under age youths and got away with it. I have no sympathy for those who knowingly continue to do so. It is only right and proper they should be penalised where it hurts them most, in their pockets, by the imposition of a temporary closure of their premises for seven days.

There is reasonable doubt that a decent and genuine publican who is running his business properly could unknowingly serve an under age youth and his premises could be temporarily closed for seven days. The fact that the imposition of such a closure is mandatory would make it extremely difficult for a judge in a court of law to have discretion.

Some people will attempt to use fake IDs or other means to get a drink on a licensed premises by, for example, asking someone who is not under age to purchase it. If that happens unknowingly to a publican, it is very harsh that such a publican's premises could be temporarily closed. It would be preferable if there was a system whereby due process took place and such a publican could go to court and prove beyond reasonable doubt that he or she unknowingly served alcoholic drink to an under age person. We must also remember that the imposition of such a penalty will not only affect the publican but the staff who may be out of work for seven days. That is another factor we should consider. As other Senators have said, this issue needs to be looked at. This problem will arise occasionally and the penalty will be very severe on publicans that are caught in that position.

Mr. O'Donoghue: It is significant what can be achieved by changing a single word. Depending on who utters it, the whole world can be changed by a single word. The effect of the amendment proposed here would be to kick away what I regard as not just a significant strengthening but a desirable one in tackling the under age drinking problem by targeting those who engage in this trade. I assume that most Members would support strong sanctions against those who engage in a criminally responsible act.

The report of the sub-committee of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Equality and Women's Rights made specific reference to the problem of under age drinking. It called for stiffer penalties, including increased fines and the temporary closure of premises. All of these suggestions have been taken on board in the Bill. The granting and renewal of a liquor licence is on the basis that the person is of sound character, otherwise he or she would not have received a licence in the first place or continue to hold one.

The amendment may wish to protect those who make a mistake. I have no doubt that that is its intention. The reality is that licensees cannot use as a defence against their actions or omissions the excuse that they made a mistake. Otherwise the question will arise, "When do they stop making mistakes?" If this provision appears tough then it is meant to be so. The message needs to be got across that supplying liquor to under age persons is unacceptable in any circumstances. The message that should go out from this House to licence holders is that they should ask for proof of age if they are in any doubt about a young person. That is the best defence open to the licensee.

The amendment would have the effect of diluting the strength of section 13. It would lead to a situation where the section would not operate to any particular effect. That could defeat the purpose of the section and it would depart from the policy suggested by the Oireachtas joint committee and endorsed by the Government.

The present law under which a person may lose a licence is largely inoperable because it is draconian. The provision in the Bill would be a workable solution. That much may not be said about the amendment and I do not think it can be supported. I will illustrate precisely what I mean. If it were the case that every person charged with this offence could go into a court and say that the premises was crowded on the night in question, then this section would not be worth the paper upon which it is written. I accept and admit that this provision is the toughest legislative provision that has been brought into force against the scourge of under age drinking in our society since the foundation of the State. This was done for a very good reason. Under age drinking is a serious problem that is growing, not slowing down or dissipating, and it must be tackled. The easiest thing for me to do would be to come here and pay lip service to the problem. If I accepted this amendment I would be doing that.

There is a national identity card scheme in operation which I introduced in April 1999.

Mr. Connor: It is not working.

Mr. O'Donoghue: At that time I stated that it was important for people to apply for the card and that publicans and anyone involved in the supply and sale of intoxicating liquor should get used to asking for the card. If a licensee has any doubt about a young person's age I would strongly advise them to ask for an ID card. If they do not have a card then the licensee should not serve them.

I accept that this legislation is tough. I am not saying it is not. In coming to a determination regarding the length of the closure it is specified quite clearly at section 13(3):

In determining the duration of a temporary closure under the Court may seek from a member of the Garda Síochána involved in the investigation of the offence a report on the circumstances in which it was committed and any other information which the Court may consider to be of assistance to it in dealing with the case.


The court takes into account the circumstances under which the sale to the young person took place. I have been extremely careful to ensure that there is no minimum period which the court is bound to impose by way of closure. It could be an hour, one day, three days or seven days.

A minority of people are involved in the sale and supply of intoxicating liquor who have no compunction about serving children. This practice must stop. It will never be prevented entirely but it is incumbent on the Legislature at this period in our history to do what is necessary and right by young people. Parents of teenagers all around the country are horrified at the prospect of their children coming home helplessly drunk on the night the junior certificate results are announced. It is happening before our eyes. There is a duty on the Legislature to tackle this problem. This provision is unyielding and uncompromising. It will not be changed and I do not say that with any degree of smugness.

Mr. Costello: The Minister has been very convincing and trenchant in the views he expressed. It is not often that I would side with the vintners in putting an amendment forward. I introduced this amendment with some degree of trepidation. I have always espoused the principle that we should not have mandatory sentences because they make bad law. They create more problems than they resolve. Once a judicial process is in place then that is the way to deal with this matter.

We have many laws on the Statute Book but questions arise about how they will be implemented. There is a context in which drinking takes place. Guinness is a major of young people's sports, from surfing to Gaelic football and soccer. That is allowed with impunity. Other people have responsibilities in this area.

We have an epidemic of people drinking in public parks. The law is not being implemented either by the local authorities who are responsible for the regulations or the gardaí within whose jurisdiction this drinking takes place. Off-licences are quite clearly selling intoxicating liquor to young people who then consume it.

I am aware of clusters of public houses in the city where young people are served. I agree with the PTAA's proposal for the Minister to establish a special unit to deal with the public houses that have been flouting the law with impunity. When young people get their junior certificate results they know which public houses to go to. I am concerned that the Minister is just focusing on public houses in this provision. It covers off-licences to a degree. The pub is the only place where a young person under 18 years of age can be found, perhaps in a group of people, with a pint in their hand. I would like to see this provision broadened so that we do not have one area of prescription. The other areas I talked about are neither properly regulated nor policed. I have no doubt this will not be properly policed and I would like to see the Minister focusing on the areas which can be identified. A positive statement to the effect that there will be a proposal to set up a special unit within the Garda Síochána to police the abuse of alcohol and prevent under age drinking would be worthwhile.

Dr. Henry: I agree with the Minister in sticking with what he has done. He correctly referred to the situation where we see drunken junior certificate students at the top of Grafton Street. I do not know where they get alcohol, except in pubs-----

Mr. Bohan: In supermarkets.

Dr. Henry: -----because there are no off-licences there from which to purchase drink. It is important to remember that Professor Anthony Clare has frequently written that we talk continuously about the drug problem, vis-à-vis Ecstasy, heroin and so on, but he said that the abuse of alcohol by teenagers is a far greater problem. He deals with alcohol abuse in St. Patrick's Institution far more frequently than with hard drugs.

The Americans have managed to recognise people's age by employing more staff. This helps in that those selling alcohol and serving it can take a good look at the person who orders drinks for a group of people and those who will consume it. The Minister is right to stick with this. There is huge flexibility here. The judge can decide to close a pub from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. and so on.

Mr. Caffrey: It is obvious the Minister will not be swayed on this amendment even with the promptings from the Government side. On a point of clarification, there is confusion on mandatory closure. We assume seven days is the maximum imposition. The fact that the District Court has discretion to impose a lesser mandatory sentence or punishment is acceptable in so far as the Minister will not move on the major issue of the mandatory question. We agree that publicans who disregard this principle should be punished.

Senator Bohan made an important point about loss of business. If the ultimate sanction were imposed, a publican, in losing trade for seven days, would effectively lose half his business because his customers would not wait for him to reopen. They would have gone elsewhere and many of them would not return. It is an extreme sanction and we must recognise that the District Court has discretion to impose a lesser mandatory punishment.

Mr. Moylan: I compliment the Minister and it is great to see him standing firm on this section. Reference was made to young people doing the junior certificate and the problems associated with them regarding alcohol. Children are drinking much younger than those doing their junior certificate and they are able to get beer. There is a problem in respect of off-licences.

I would like the Minister to comment on the penalty on young people using false ID to purchase alcohol in a premises. Tied into this, there must also be a deterrent on those who do so. The problem of publicans selling alcohol to young people has been taken in hand, but there must be a deterrent in respect of young people who go out with false ID with the sole aim of purchasing alcohol.

Mr. O'Donoghue: All that has to be said has been said, with a few exceptions. I will try to reply briefly. On the question of identity cards and young people using forged cards, the discretion to introduce the cards was first provided for in the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1988. The Minister for Justice was given the power under that legislation to introduce, by way of regulation, a system of national identity cards on a discretionary basis. That power was not exercised until I did so last year when I gave the advice that those involved in the drinks industry should get used to asking young people for ID cards. If that did not happen, with all due respect to everybody, it is not my fault, although I must admit, accept and stress that I am satisfied the vast majority of those involved in the drinks industry do not want to supply young people with drink and do not do so. That might explain why there was not a great take-up in terms of applying for the ID cards. The vast majority of people do not become engaged in supplying drink to young people anyway.

The position is that a young person can go to a Garda station, fill out a form, the form is sent to the Phoenix Park, Dublin, and in so far as it can be fault proof, the details on the card, including the photograph of the young person, are sent back to the Garda station. Obviously, the young person will arrive at the station with his birth certificate and photograph. I cannot make it mandatory on people to have ID cards. Why should I make it mandatory on a person, for example, of 16 or 17 years of age to have an ID card if he-she has no intention of seeking alcohol? I do not think a young person should be penalised or obliged in that way. Having pointed that out, in reply to Senator Moylan, if a forgery occurs, the person concerned will be subjected to serious penalties. Abuse of the ID card attracts a fine of up to £1,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or both. This is to prevent forgery of the cards, which, incidentally, is an offence under the 1988 Act. However, the scheme was not introduced until last year when I activated the section in question.

The cards are not so easy to forge. There are security features which includes a hologram that is incorporated into their design and, obviously, that is a major security feature. It is obvious that if a person over the age of 18 looks younger and he wishes to purchase alcohol, he should get a card. It is straightforward. There is no need for anybody under the age of 18 to get an ID card because he should not be seeking alcohol anyway. For the person supplying alcohol the situation is very clear. One should make certain that if there is any doubt about a person, the ID card should be produced. If it is not produced and the doubt remains, my strong advice is not to serve him.

On the issue of enforcement, a matter referred to by Senator Costello, I indicated at the publication of the Bill that hand in hand with the relaxation of the opening hours, greater ease of access to the trade and other liberalising measures, there would be a crack-down on abuses of the law. On enactment of this legislation, I will be asking the Garda Commissioner to pursue vigorously those who persistently flout the law, particularly those who engage in the criminally irresponsible trade of supplying intoxicating liquor to persons under age.

Senator Henry is correct in that there is absolutely no doubt that alcohol is unquestionably a far greater threat in terms of the quantity of young people abusing it than controlled substances or illegal drugs. To dilute this legislation in the manner suggested would result in letting down the parents of teenagers. There is no easy way to do this - either we tackle it head on with legislation or we forget about it. Dilution of this measure in the manner suggested would render the provision inoperable as it could not be applied with any confidence.

I am convinced that the section as drafted will be a major weapon in the fight against under age drinking. It will not eliminate the practice. Other factors, such as education and parental responsibility, must also be taken into account. In the final analysis, it is important that we attempt to cut off the supply at source. Let us see how it works. My view is that it will be a significant weapon in the fight against under age-drinking.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Is the amendment being pressed?

Mr. Costello: No, but I may re-enter it on Report Stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Government amendment No. 28:

In page 13, line 9, to delete "during the period of closure under the order" and substitute "by reason of the order during the period of closure under it".


Mr. O'Donoghue: I am proposing a minor amendment to subsection (8) of the new section 36A of the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1988, as inserted by section 13 of the Bill to clarify the position relating to the protection of persons employed in the licensed premises that is the subject of a temporary closure order. The amendment makes it clear that by reason of the order during the period of closure under it the employee must not be disadvantaged in his or her employment. I recommend the amendment to the House.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 29:

In page 13, line 14, to delete "Workers" and substitute "Worker".


Mr. O'Donoghue: This amendment is intended to reflect in full the title of the legislation referred to in subsection (9) of the new section 36A of the 1988 Act. I recommend the amendment to the House.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 13, as amended, agreed to.


Government amendment No. 30:

In page 13, subsection (1), lines 45 and 46, to delete "(exclusion of children from bars of licensed premises)" and substitute "(sale of intoxicating liquor to under age persons)".


Mr. O'Donoghue: This is a technical amendment which makes it clear that section 31 of the 1988 Act referred to in section 14(1) relates to the provision of liquor to under age persons and does not exclude children from bars.

Dr. Henry: It is a great deal more sensible than what was contained in the original Bill. It at least means children will not be left outside in the rain.

Amendment agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Amendment No. 32 is an alternative to amendment No. 31 and they may be taken together by agreement.

Mr. Connor: I move amendment No. 31:

In page 14, lines 1 to 11, to delete paragraph (b).


The amendment seeks the deletion of paragraph (b). While I agree with much of the section, it needs to be overhauled. Section 14 places the responsibility on the licensee to determine the age of a person. It is also the licensee who will bear responsibility for an infraction of the law. That is unfair.

I am strongly against under age drinking and I have spoken in favour of compulsory ID cards. Consider the example of a customer who buys a round of drinks and serves an alcoholic beverage to a person under 18 years of age sitting at his table. Is it fair that the licensee will be held responsible for that person being served alcohol? The licensee would have no reason to believe any of the drinks would be served to an under age. The Minister is placing absolute responsibility for such action on the publican. I believe it should be shared.

The Minister mentioned that a person who forges or interferes with an identity card is guilty of a criminal offence and will be held responsible. The age of criminal responsibility - I am sure the Minister will correct me if I am wrong - is 14 years.

Mr. O'Donoghue: No, it is 7 years of age. I am changing it to 12 years of age.

Mr. Connor: A young person of 14 or 15 years of age ought to know the law. It is an offence for such young persons to purchase alcohol. They ought to know they are breaking the law by going into pubs and representing themselves as more than 18 years old. Why does the Bill not take account of that? Young people would have to be accompanied by their parents in court because a person under the age of 18 years cannot appear in the District Court without them.

If we are to do everything we can to fight the scourge of under age drinking we must place some of the responsibility on young people. Children mature much earlier nowadays and have reached the full use of reason by the time they are teenagers. They know when they are breaking the law. They may misrepresent their age to obtain alcohol. We should delete this section or revise it to include a provision to place the burden of responsibility on the under age person requesting alcohol. These people know they are in breach of the law. It is unfair to place all the burden of responsibility on a licensee who may, in the circumstances I outlined - and there are many others one could think of - have been fooled by the customer.

The 1988 Act governs the supply of intoxicating liquor to persons under 18 years of age. It is a clear interdiction. The Minister said that Act set the framework for a voluntary ID card scheme. I spoke on the debate on that Act which put in place the framework for a national statutory identity card scheme to be used by young people but it was not activated by this Minister or his predecessors because it was felt that it might be an infringement of civil liberties.

We have reached a point where we must do more than place the responsibility for under age drinking on publicans. We must place some of the responsibility on those who know what they are doing. Young people between the ages of 15 and 18 years who knowingly go into pubs seeking alcohol are aware they are breaking the law. If we are to make it a serious offence for a person to forge identity cards, we should make it an offence for them to demand the sale of intoxicating liquor to them knowing they are under age.

In my contribution to the debate on the intoxicating liquor Bill on 14 December 1999 to allow for late opening on New Year's Eve I said:

Under age drinking is very prevalent in this country. A greater number of young children are starting to drink at a younger age and a high percentage are regular drinkers by the time they reach 18 years of age. Many of them even abuse alcohol at that age.


Surveys are a bit patchy but those conducted among post-primary pupils at both national and regional levels indicate that at least 63% of students and in some regional surveys close to this city 83% of young people under 18 years of age drink and that up to 30% of them can be abusing alcohol by the time they reach 18 years of age. That is how serious the problem is. That is why I am calling for more draconian measures to deal with it, a term which I do not mind using. Sanctions should be applied heavily to licensees who knowingly break the law, as we said in the sub-committee report, but all the responsibility should not be placed on them. Other actors are breaking the law and know it.

The Garda ought to enforce the law more rigorously. They would say that the law was rather grey prior to the 1988 Act because the identity cards were never introduced. The reasonable belief defence which a publican had, that is the reasonable belief that the person was 18 years of age or over, could be used and contributed a great deal of uncertainty to any prosecutions. If one looks at the figures, the number of prosecutions for under age drinking in any year can almost be counted on the fingers of one hand and one might not even achieve anything. My views on it are even stronger than those of the Minister and I advise him to take note of them.

Mr. Costello: My amendment has somewhat the same effect which is that we substitute an age card with evidence of a person's age. The information I have is that the national age card is unknown to most people countrywide despite what the Minister has said and there is no such thing as a national card. There is no obligation on anybody to carry identification with them to prove age in a public house. It depends on whether there is a bouncer outside the door, which is increasingly the case in city centre pubs, or if anybody checks them on the way in but there is not a check after that. There is no requirement relating to identification. The brave way to have progressed on this was to seek a mandatory card. If the Minister wants to take the mandatory route, as he has in other areas, then he should have provided for a mandatory card, rather than an age card which nobody has or knows about. No such card exists. At least I am giving the Minister a little more scope in this area and saying that there should be satisfactory evidence of a person's age. An ID card is often forged and is not the best way but at least they should give some satisfactory evidence of age. Alternatively, it must be a mandatory national card.

It is very difficult for a publican in some situations. For example, in the circumstances where a group of people come in who are around the same age, a publican has some chance. If a family group comes in and buys a few bottles of wine or a few drinks and an under age member is given a drink, how can this be policed? It is a complex area with which it is very difficult to deal. I return to the point that there are off-licences and pubs throughout this city and countrywide where the absence of policing is the problem. They are known to the young people who use them. Everybody else seems to know about them but there is not specific implementation of the law.

I return to the point I made at the end of my last remarks, which is that the Minister has not told the House that he is taking action other than speaking to the Garda Commissioner about the effects of this legislation. He does not intend to set up any specific unit within the Garda to seek to implement it. If the Minister does not have provision for it in this legislation because there is a cost factor involved, then we can argue here forever and no action will be taken regarding the concerns we express or the very desirable effects that we all want. The heart of the problem is to ensure that there is not under age drinking, that the publican or off-licensee does not facilitate it, that no elder sibling or other person enables it, but how does one come up with the formula? If we do not have the proper policing structure, then there is not much sense in passing the legislation.

Mr. Bohan: An area which the Minister might examine is the constant responsibility of the publican or licensee. A group of young women may come into a public house, one or two of whom are over 20 or 25 years of age but a few of whom are under 18. They order an orange or a cola and they have a half bottle of vodka in their handbag. They serve themselves, one might say. What happens then if those people are arrested and they find that they are over the limit or whatever the case may be, even though the publican has only served them a cola or an orange? There could be an off-licence next door or in the immediate vicinity. This is a serious problem currently. One cannot search their handbags on the way in or one would be in trouble with the law. The Minister might look at placing greater responsibility on the people committing the offence.

Mr. O'Donoghue: Under current law, the Act of 1988, it is a defence for a licensee to claim that he or she had reasonable grounds for believing that a person to whom he or she sold intoxicating liquor was of a legal age. By removing this defence, which I am doing with section 14 of the Bill, a greater onus will be placed on the licensee to ensure that intoxicating liquor is supplied only to those who are legally entitled to purchase or consume it on licensed premises. Licensees have been facilitated in this context by way of the age card scheme to which I have already referred and which, as I said, I introduced with regulations made under the Act of 1988. The scheme has been in operation since April 1999 and it has been availed of by a number of persons. My understanding is that approximately 9,000 cards have been issued to date. I have no doubt it will continue to grow further as persons become more acquainted with the scheme.

Amendment No. 31 would leave us with the status quo because it seeks to retain the defence of reasonable grounds relating to offences arising from the sale of intoxicating liquor to under age persons. In other words, the amendment is seeking to indicate that if the licensee can go to court and say that he or she believed on reasonable grounds that the person concerned was over the age of 18, then the court would be obliged to dismiss the charge.

Mr. Connor: That is not the intention and the Minister cannot make a ruling-----

Mr. O'Donoghue: It is the effect of what is being proposed. That is what it means. I have an obligation to tell the House precisely what the amendment means. I suggest to the House that this would go against the thrust of the Bill which seeks to introduce a modern code of law and to strengthen the existing provisions regarding the supply or sale of intoxicating liquor to under age persons. The problem of under age drinking must be addressed and it would be negligent of me to ignore this problem in this Bill. As I have indicated already, I am determined that the Bill will result in a considered approach to the sale of alcohol to under age persons.

The reasonable grounds defence in current law make it difficult for the Garda to obtain successful convictions against the small minority of licence holders who are engaged in the criminal behaviour of selling alcohol to minors. Section 14 of the Bill will help to remove that difficulty. Licence holders who uphold the new law in this regard will have nothing to fear but those licence holders who continually and consistently flout the law who will feel the full force of its effect. The incidence of under age drinking is, as I indicated, of major concern to parents of teenagers. I am convinced that section 14, together with the other measures which I am introducing in this Bill and the voluntary age card scheme which I introduced in April 1999, will go a long way towards addressing the problem. Following the introduction of this Bill, for the first time in the history of the State, no defence will be acceptable for the sale of alcohol to minors. Garda authorities, parents' groups and youth organisations sought this tough provision and they firmly support it. This provision is warranted if the scourge of under age drinking is ever to be addressed. In those circumstances it will be clear that I do not intend to dilute the provisions of the section in any way.

Amendment No. 32 would render the age card scheme redundant by substituting a system based merely on evidence of a person's age. The age card scheme has the professional backing of the Garda Síochána and it is now up and running. The scheme makes forgery of cards difficult, thereby ensuring the age card is a reliable form of identification. It is an offence under section 41 of the 1988 Act to forge an age card and it is punishable by a fine not exceeding £1,000 or 12 months imprisonment, or both.

What is meant in amendment No. 32 by "evidence of age"? If a person brings along a birth certificate, will that suffice as evidence of age? Will it still constitute evidence of age when the birth certificate does not belong to the 16 year old who brought it along but to the 23 year old brother or sister of that person? Some young people carry passports to verify their ages before publicans. I do not encourage that practice given the value of that document. We have been down this road before and it just did not work. The age card is an effective way of determining proof of age. It gives the licensee and staff adequate protection against persons who attempt to procure alcohol unlawfully.

While the proponents of these amendments wish to retain the reasonable grounds defence and do away with the age card in relation to offences under section 31 of the 1988 Act, they have no difficulty with removing the reasonable grounds defence or on relying on the age card in respect of offences committed under sections 35 and 36 of the same Act. I am not being confrontational in asking what logic is being applied.

Senator Connor said young people seeking to purchase drink should be criminalised as much as the licensee. That is already the position. The Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1988, provides that it is an offence for any person under 18 years of age to purchase alcohol, or for anyone else to purchase alcohol for any person under the age of 18, whether in an off-licence or on-licence, or to consume it in any place other than a private residence. It is also, incidentally, an offence for a licence holder to sell or deliver alcohol to a person under 18 years of age, or to permit consumption of drink by or the supply of drink to such a person under the 1988 Act. It is also an offence for intoxicating liquor to be in possession of a person under 18 in any place other than a private residence and it may be seized by the gardaí. Persons under 15 years are not allowed into the bar of a licensed premises unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. No person under 18 is allowed in the part of a licensed premises where an extension under a special exemption order is in force and under 18s are not allowed on off-licensed premises unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.

I have already indicated my opposition to making the card scheme mandatory. The age card scheme is designed for people who wish to purchase alcohol. A mandatory scheme would have to apply to all persons, even those who do not wish to enter licensed premises. The age card scheme is for persons who are already legally entitled to consume alcohol on a licensed premises. If I am obliged to make the card compulsory under the legislation, where would it all end? It would mean that a person of 85 would require the card as much as a person of 18 years and one day. That would not make sense. The voluntary scheme assists both consumers and licensees where doubt exists. It does not, however, convey any special right to be on a licensed premises or to be served alcohol.

Senator Connor referred to the fact that there were hardly any prosecutions for under age drinking. It is true that the number of prosecutions for under age drinking in the State has been low to date. The adoption of the amendments in his name - I say this with all due respect - could only lead to a situation where there could not possibly be a successful conviction without painstaking investigations and a degree of evidence which would be impossible to obtain in most cases. I am not suggesting the Senator is not well intentioned, I accept he is opposed to under age drinking, but the difficulty is that since the foundation of the State, in both Houses, speeches have been made about under age drinking. No representative has ever said he or she was in favour of under age drinking. Every speech was against it, but little, if anything, of a pragmatic nature was done to tackle the scourge of under age drinking. Very little was done to assist the parents of teenagers in their fight against under age drinking from a legislative perspective. From now on the situation will be different. Everyone knows what the law is. There is complete clarity.

I will take on board Senator Costello's point that many people do now know about the availability of the cards. I will engage in a publicity campaign if necessary.

Senator Bohan mentioned young people on premises who had purchased alcohol somewhere else and consumed it with a bottle of orange which they bought from the publican. My reply is that it is an offence to permit an under age person to drink alcohol on licensed premises, irrespective of whether the alcohol was supplied on those premises. There can be no equivocation or doubt. That amounts to lip service. I am not saying the legislation is perfect but it is a cogent attempt, with considerable support from those with an interest in the subject, to tackle the problem.

Mr. Connor: The Minister tried to convey that, by moving this amendment, I was trying to weaken the fight against under age drinking, but I was trying to do the direct opposite. I asked for the entire section to be deleted so the legislation could be strengthened. A scenario was outlined where a youngster surreptitiously brings drink into a licensed premises and mixes it with a soft drink which he or she purchases there. It is unfair, by the terms of natural justice, to place the responsibility on that licensee. I am not making any great argument for the principle of reasonable belief, I never liked it because I always considered there should have been a much stronger approach to the identity card scheme. I am pleased to hear that the 1988 Act places the responsibility on the under age person but I have never yet heard of a prosecution under any section of that Act.

Perhaps what we need is a new anti under age drinking Bill where all these matters would be brought together and specifically set out in a single Bill, which has little to do with licensing or other aspects of the intoxicating liquor industry. It is singularly the greatest scourge which parents of teenagers face. It is incumbent on us, as Members of this House, to do everything possible to outlaw it but we should not at the same time place an unduly onerous burden on a licensee. That is unfair and is not an answer to the problem.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 32 not moved.

Question proposed: "That section 14, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

Mr. Costello: Will the Minister make a statement on young people working in public houses given that, under this Bill, those between the ages of 16 and 18 can work on general duties but cannot sell intoxicating liquor? How will that be policed? How will it operate within the law?

Mr. O'Donoghue: I assume the Senator is referring to the whole issue of legalising the position of persons between the age of 16 and 18 acting as lounge boys or girls. The objective is to regularise the position. Persons of that age should be allowed to work in lounges and so on. Obviously the policing of any provision of our intoxicating liquor laws or our criminal laws is a matter for the Garda Síochána. Clearly, it will be the responsibility of the employer to ensure everything is in order. I do not envisage any difficulty. It is something that will be broadly welcomed. It seeks to ensure that publicans who wish to take on young people for this type of work can do so, especially in the summer months, without fear of prosecution.

Mr. Costello: While the hours of trading are being extended from 11.30 p.m. to 12.30 a.m. on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, there is also drinking-up time of half an hour, bringing the time to 1 a.m. Following this there will be tidying up and so on, yet young people between the ages of 16 and 18 are performing general duties which include serving and tidying up but not the sale of intoxicating liquor. This means young persons could be out at unearthly hours under the new legislation. That is against the law. Therefore, how will it be policed? There is no attempt to ensure that young persons work within the law. What about the proposal from the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association for a special police unit?

Mr. O'Donoghue: I shall deal with the first point first. Regulations can be made under the Protection of Young Persons Act which provide for the times at which young people can work and the hours at which they must stop. The Senator can take it there will be no young persons in public houses at all hours of the night. That will not happen because the regulations provide for that. With regard to the question of a special Garda unit to police pubs, young people drinking and so on, it is possible to have a Garda unit for every single Act but it would not be feasible. The Garda Síochána will be expected to enforce this legislation.

I have had intensive discussions with the Garda Commissioner and the deputy commissioner of the Garda Síochána on this legislation. We had a considerable debate on the old legislation and it became clear to me, as it had been in any event, that so far as under age drinking was concerned it was extremely difficult for the Garda to operate it. If a licensee said that he or she thought the young person was over 18 years of age, that was a reasonable ground offence. Therefore, the Garda would be wasting its time. There were cases where it might have been possible to get a prosecution, but it was extremely difficult. The clarity with which the Bill is presented gives to the Garda Síochána an opportunity to ensure its under age provisions are enforced. I hope that explains the position. There is no question of the Bill allowing young persons to work as lounge boys or girls in public houses until all hours of the night because there is protection under regulations made under the Protection of Young Persons Act for which the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment is responsible.

Question put and agreed to.


An Leas-Chathaoirleach: There is a minor correction in that an asterisk should appear before amendment No. 33 in the name of Senator Quinn. I understand the Government has also tabled this amendment. I call Senator Quinn.

Mr. Quinn: I move amendment No. 33:

In page 15, subsection (1), line 13, to delete "a licence" and substitute "a full licence".

I shall not go into detail on this matter. This is a technical amendment. I recognise that the intention of the section was to provide for "a full licence" and I have attempted to correct that.

Mr. O'Donoghue: This amendment is proposed for the purposes of clarity. It takes into account the point made by Senator Quinn on Second Stage and I wish to be associated with it. Section 15, as framed, does not intend to preclude a person who has a premises in respect of which a retailer's on-licence or off-licence is attached from applying for other off-licences, for example, a beer retailer's off-licence. The insertion of the word "full" before the word "licence" as proposed will remove any doubt on that point. A full licence is defined in the Bill as a publican's licence. Under section 15 it is such a licence that can be offered up when applying for an off-licence but only in respect of a premises to which a licence was never attached. I am sure all Senators will support this amendment and I thank Senator Quinn for tabling it.

Mr. Quinn: I thank the Minister for responding to my amendment. I would also like the little bit of kudos that my amendment was accepted, rather than sharing it with the Minister.

Amendment agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Amendment No. 34 in the name of Senator Costello. Amendments Nos. 35 and 36 are related. Amendments Nos. 34, 35 and 36 may be discussed together, by agreement.

Mr. Costello: I move amendment No. 34:

In page 15, subsection (1), line 13, to delete "was never" and substitute "is not".


This amendment seeks to delete a premises to which a licence "was never" attached in substitution for a premises to which a licence "is not" attached. Why does it not relate to a situation where there is not a current licence? Why does it exclude the fact that there may have been a licence in the past? I am unclear about the need for the provision.

Amendment No. 35 relates to absolute discretion. I am wary of the word "absolute" in legislation. The provision states "...unless the court in its absolute discretion prohibits the issuing of the licence" on various grounds. I presume the usual phrase would be "the court in its discretion".

Amendment No. 36 is more substantial. It states: "The Court may waive the requirement for the surrender of an existing licence if it is satisfied that it would be proper to do so having regard to the population in the area where the premises to be licensed are situate and the scarcity of licensed premises in that area." One of the great bones of contention during the debate has been that there are too many licensed premises in one part of the country and totally inadequate provision in other parts. This relates largely to shifting population. This was manageable up to the end of 1980s because of emigration but there are now bulging populations in many towns and cities. Although the Minister has made provision for the transfer of licences from rural to urban areas, which is welcome as one licence must be substituted for another, there is no provision for extra licences. The amendment provides for the issuing of new licences if the level of population warrants it.

I do not understand why that would not be welcomed by vintners. There is a fear among taxi owners and publicans of deregulation. However, in an area where there is increased population, the last thing anybody would want are pubs which are hangars or barns. For example, Ballymun has two pubs for a population of 20,000. It is madness. A similar position applies in Tallaght and other expanding areas. Places for small intimate social gatherings are required. A pub should be an attractive, gregarious place where there is not a large number of people leaving together at the end of a night's drinking. Amendment No. 36 is most important and it would resolve many of the problems if it was taken on board. It would provide for proper regulation of new licences in areas that warrant them, of which there are many.

Mr. O'Donoghue: I cannot accept amendments Nos. 34 and 36 which seek to undermine the basis on which a certificate of the court for the granting of a new licence can be issued. Amendment No. 34 would mean that, in respect of premises whose licence had been taken away by the court for good reason, a person could apply again at some future date, perhaps the following year, for restoration of the licence.

Mr. Costello: That is not the intention.

Mr. O'Donoghue: There can be good reasons that section 15, which introduces a new, less restrictive licensing regime, would not permit the relicensing of a premises. The premises in question could have been licensed in the past and the court may have declared the licence forfeited. This might have been because of the unsuitability of the premises in terms of its location etc. There would be no point attempting to relicence such premises. The substance of the section is correct and the amendment would in no way add to it. It would open the possibility of acquiring a new licence in an unacceptable way.

I will accept amendment No. 35. The matter has been discussed with the parliamentary draftsman and it is clear that the words in question do not add to the substance of the section. I thank Senator Costello for bringing this matter to my attention.

Amendment No. 36 would waive the requirement for the surrender of an existing licence based on a set of factors which do not make sense. Such factors as the population of the area where the new licence is to be located and the scarcity of licensed premises in the area are demographic factors which should attract persons to set up new premises there by moving from areas where there is an oversupply of licences. Section 15 as it stands will have the effect, for example, of inducing existing licensees, persons experienced in the trade, to move from areas where they may or may not be operating in a commercially viable way to areas where there would be greater opportunities for them to provide a service to the public. It would also help new interest in the trade by making access to licences easier.

I would prefer to see how the new law performs in practice. I have gone far enough for the time being in opening up the licensed trade. I would prefer to see the effect of the new law before going any further. Moreover, section 15 introduces new provisions in relation to access to the market by creating a nationwide single licence area and a standard requirement of the extinguishing of one licence in any part of the State when applying for a new licence. The effect of the Senator's amendment would be to create a different and uncertain standard in some cases. This would not be satisfactory.

In addition, the Government has approved my proposal regarding the establishment of a commission on licensing. It will have ample scope to deliver quality advice to me and the Government in relation to such diverse areas as access to licences, the nature of premises which can or should be licensed, the distribution of licences and the licensing system. For these reasons I cannot support amendments Nos. 34 and 36, although I will accept amendment No. 35.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Costello: I move amendment No. 35:

In page 15, subsection (1), line 29, to delete "in its absolute discretion".


I thank the Minister for agreeing to accept this amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 36 not moved.

Section 15, as amended, agreed to.


Mr. Costello: I move amendment No. 37:

In page 16, subsection (2), lines 25 and 26, to delete "within one year after the commencement of this section".


Mr. O'Donoghue: I cannot support the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 16 agreed to.

Sections 17 and 18 agreed to.


Mr. Connor: I move amendment No. 38:

In page 17, before section 19, but in Part 4 of the Bill, to insert the following new section:


19.- A person residing in the vicinity of a licensed premises may object at any time where he or she has reasonable grounds to do so to the continued holding of a licence by a licensee.".


This matter was raised at the sub-committee regarding inflexibility in terms of the ability to object to a licence where there is clear delinquency in relation to how a licensee is conducting his or her business and where it has, for example, an impact on the neighbourhood. The only time a person adversely affected by the way a licensed premises is run can object is at the annual licensing court which is held on 30 September. The amendment would allow a person, who has reasonable grounds, to make an objection at any time during the year. Problems can arise quickly, for example, if there is a change of ownership or if a citizen is rightly concerned about under age drinking in a licensed premises. That would be excellent grounds for objecting to the operation of a licence and this should be possible at any time during the year.

Mr. O'Donoghue: I understand Senator Connor's point. The current law is that a person can object to a licence renewal at the annual licensing session in the District Court, which is held in September. The difficulty is that if people were allowed to object all year round, there could be vexatious claims. In any event, objections heard together, if there are a number of them, will give the court a much better picture of the position in relation to the overall performance of a public house over the year rather than judging it on one event. The current position, which is akin to making a tax return every year, is the right way to proceed. Unfortunately, I cannot accept Senator Connor's amendment although I understand his position.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

An Cathaoirleach: Amendment No. 39 is out of order.

Amendment No. 39 not moved.

Sections 19 to 22, inclusive, agreed to.


Mr. Connor: I move amendment No. 40:

In page 19, before section 23, to insert the following new section:


"23.---A person who is the holder of a wine retailer's on-licence (within the meaning of the Act of 1910) or a wine retailers off-licence may offer beer for sale for consumption off the premises".


Amendment No. 39 was ruled out of order but I would have withdrawn it in view of what the Minister said about setting up a licensing commission.

Amendment No. 40 seeks to allow a person who has a licence to sell wine in a supermarket to sell cans or bottles of beer for consumption at home. It is motivated by the fact that the Minister has liberalised the law for restaurants which hold a wine licence and they can now sell beer. I ask the Minister to extend that concession to supermarkets which hold wine licences.

Mr. Moylan: If 20% of a restaurant must be made available as a waiting area where alcoholic drink is served, will people who cannot wait an hour for a meal be able to drink there and leave? Perhaps the Minister could clarify that.

Mr. Connor: We are talking about supermarkets, not restaurants.

Mr. O'Donoghue: There is a ban on a bar in a restaurant. I have already explained the position in that regard.

Senator Connor's amendment seeks to permit the holder of a wine retailer's on-licence or a wine retailer's off-licence to offer beer for sale for consumption off the premises. It seems it was prompted by section 22 which permits the serving of beer with a meal in a restaurant holding a restaurant certificate and a wine retailer's on-licence. The section reflects consumer demand and it will also facilitate both the restaurant industry and the tourist trade.

The position in relation to the off-licensed sale of beer is different. Any person who wishes, subject to meeting certain conditions, may apply to the District Court for a certificate leading to the grant of a beer retailers off-licence. In common with all other such applications, that is, an application for the grant of a certificate for a spirit retailer's off-licence or a full publican's licence, it is a condition that an existing licence or licences are extinguished. No such requirement exists for the grant of a wine retailer's on-licence or off-licence. Under the Bill, as it stands, in section 15 the condition relating to extinguishment is relaxed in that the licence may be sourced from anywhere in the State and only one extinguished licence is required in all cases. In addition, a publican's licence can be offered directly in substitution for an off-licence.

I cannot support a proposal which would permit the holder of a wine on-licence or off-licence to sell beer for consumption off the premises on foot of such a licence. It should be remembered that wine licences are granted without the need for a certificate of the court. There is, therefore, no examination of the character of the applicant for a licence and no opportunity to examine the fitness of the premises in terms of its location or suitability. It would be an error to compare the relaxation of the restriction on the sale of beer with a meal in a restaurant with what is proposed in this amendment. The commission on licensing will examine as part of its remit a system of additional licences. The nature of the off-licence is something that might be considered further by the commission. I regret that for the reasons I have outlined I cannot accept the amendment.

Mr. Connor: In view of the Minister's statement that this matter will be submitted to the commission on licensing when it is set up, I will withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


An Cathaoirleach: Amendments Nos. 41 to 43, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

Government amendment No. 41:

In page 20, paragraph (c), line 33, to delete "standards) and" and substitute "standards),".


Mr. O'Donoghue: These amendments are proposed for completeness.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 42:

In page 20, paragraph (c), line 34, after "certificate)" to insert "and subsections (2), (4) and (6) of section 17 (display of Bord Fáilte certificate)".


Amendment agreed to.

Section 23, as amended, agreed to.

Government amendment No. 43:

In page 20, before section 24, to insert the following new section:

"24.---Section 4 (grant or renewal of intoxicating liquor licences without court certificates) of the Courts (No. 2) Act, 1986, is amended by the deletion of subsection (9A) (special restaurant licences), as inserted by section 18 of the Act of 1988.".

Amendment agreed to.

Sections 24 to 26, inclusive, agreed to.


Government amendment No. 44:

In page 21, before section 27, to insert the following new section:


"27.---Section 47 of the Act of 1988 (sale of intoxicating liquor in supermarkets, etc.) is repealed.".


Mr. O'Donoghue: This proposed amendment concerns provisions relating to the sale of intoxicating liquor in premises which have an off-licence attached and are also engaged in the grocery trade, that is, supermarkets and convenience stores. Section 47 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1988, provides that "intoxicating liquor shall not be sold by self-service methods and shall not be sold otherwise than from an intoxicating liquor counter". This provision, which has not been commenced, bans the sale of alcohol by self-service methods. It was originally intended to combat under age drinking. The section applies only to off-licensed premises in which mixed trading is carried out, namely supermarkets. Some anomalies have arisen, for example, pure off-licences which also now sell tobacco, matches, confectionery and non-alcoholic beverages on a self-service basis, do not come within the scope of section 47.

The lack of certainty about the operation of section 47 has resulted in different approaches being taken by supermarkets when building new or refurbishing existing premises. Some owners, at considerable expense, have catered for the possibility that the section may at some stage be applied by locating the licensed alcoholic products in a special across the counter section. Others, instead of sectioning off part of their premises in that way, have located the alcoholic products in a particular way so as to cope with the hours when the sale of alcohol is not permitted. There is natural unease for supermarket or convenience store owners in relation to section 47.

The Bill provides for strict penalties where there is a breach of the law relating to under age drinking. The most potent weapon is the removal of the reasonable belief defence and the accompanying provision that a premises or portion of a premises can be closed temporarily. These are workable provisions which should provide adequate instruments in the fight against under age drinking. The retention of section 47 is not now justified. It offers no real further protection against under age drinking as long as it remains merely as a possible threat. I am satisfied that the new provisions relating to under age drinking offer better safeguards and more than compensate for the repeal of section 47. They will have the effect of targeting and penalising transgressors and not the entire supermarket sector which cannot be held collectively responsible for the actions of any rogue elements among its number.

I am confident Senators will see the merit in this proposal and will support the amendment on the basis I have suggested.

Amendment agreed to.

Sections 27 to 29, inclusive, agreed to.


Government amendment No. 45:

In page 22, before section 30, to insert the following new section:


"30.---Section 2 of the Beer Licences Regulation (Ireland) Act, 1877, is amended by the deletion of "; nor unless upon the production of a certificate that such rated premises, wherever situate, have been in the exclusive occupation of such person for a period of three months at the least immediately preceding the date of such certificate.".


Mr. O'Donoghue: Under section 2 of the Beer Licences Regulation (Ireland) Act, 1877, there can be a three month delay following acquisition of a property by, for example, supermarkets before a beer retailer's off-licence can be granted. In certain circumstances, for example, where the entire premises is licensed this means the outlet cannot begin to engage in even its non-licensed business for a period of three months after it is ready to open its doors to the public. This is an anachronistic provision which should not have a place in the modern code. The removal of this restriction will bring a beer retailer's off-licence in line with the spirit retailer's off-licence and a publican's on-licence, neither of which have a prior occupancy requirement. This will remove a certain amount of red tape and facilitate persons who are developing new outlets.

I am confident Senators will be able to support this amendment as a means of further facilitating the development of the off-licence sector and the provision of retail grocery outlets to the public. We are dealing with a provision which is 123 years old.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 30 agreed to.


An Cathaoirleach: Amendment No. 46 is out of order.

Amendment No. 46 not moved.

Mr. Costello: I move amendment No. 47:

In page 23, to delete lines 5 to 19.


I question the doubling of fines for people found on premises during prohibited hours. As I am not pleased with the changes the Minister made to those hours, which were unsatisfactory in the first place, I do not like the fact that penalties will be doubled when the conditions are unsatisfactory.

Mr. O'Donoghue: This amendment seeks to restore to 1988 values the fines payable on conviction for a number of offences under the licensing laws. It is a form of devaluation. The new range of permitted hours provided for in the Bill carries with it certain responsibilities for publicans and others who are found on licensed premises outside licensing hours. Some would argue and others would disagree that I have not gone far enough in relation to increasing the range of fines or penalties which should apply where persons wittingly break the law and engage in activities which could have harmful consequences.

Mr. Costello: What about Senator O'Toole on Good Friday when we find him down in Dingle?

Mr. O'Donoghue: I am not prepared to accept this amendment. I am sure Senator Costello knows that Senator O'Toole appreciates his efforts on his behalf.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule agreed to.


An Cathaoirleach: Amendments Nos. 48 and 49 are related and may be discussed together.

Government amendment No. 48:

In page 5, line 18, to delete "AND".


Mr. O'Donoghue: These are technical amendments to the Long Title of the Bill. The draftsman has advised that they would cater for certain amendments to the Bill relating to dance hall licences.

Amendment agreed to.

Government amendment No. 49:

In page 5, line 20, after "1999" to insert "; AND TO PROVIDE FOR CONNECTED MATTERS".


Amendment agreed to.

Title, as amended, agreed to.

Mr. T. Fitzgerald: I wish to record my sincere thanks to the Opposition parties for facilitating us and wish the Minister a speedy and successful journey.

Mr. O'Donoghue: I also express my deepest appreciation to Opposition Members for facilitating us in this way. I realise they could have prolonged deliberations on what were reasonable amendments. I am deeply grateful for their assistance, especially that of the Opposition spokespersons, and for the assistance of the Chief Whip and Members on the Government side.

Bill reported with amendments.

An Cathaoirleach: When is it proposed to take Report Stage?

Mr. T. Fitzgerald: Next Wednesday.

An Cathaoirleach: Is that agreed? Agreed.

Report Stage ordered for Wednesday, 17 May 2000.

An Cathaoirleach: When is it proposed to sit again?

Mr. T. Fitzgerald: At 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.

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