“The inability of mature, sensible adults to purchase alcohol after 10pm, except in a pub, is a cause of bewilderment, especially to our visiting tourists”, said Jim McCabe, NOffLA Chairman at the association’s recent AGM, adding that: “This particular piece of licensing legislation merely makes Ireland look silly!”
Describing this shortcoming as “a self-imposed own-goal”, the NOffLA Chairman expressed his exasperation at the current state of “our meaningless liquor licensing legislation”, when we already have to deal with obstacles over which we have no control, including issues "such as flight disruption caused by volcanic ash and the prolonged international recession.”
“In no other country does a situation exist, whereby tourists and adult home holiday-makers alike are treated like irresponsible children who must observe a curfew because they cannot be trusted to go to their local off-licence after 10pm. As a result of this flawed legislation, the Government labels responsible adults who wish to purchase alcohol in a shop after 10pm as ‘alcohol abusers“. This legislation is regarded by the general public as meaningless and nothing more than window dressing’ as far as curbing alcohol consumption is concerned.”
The Chairman of NOffLA is not alone in expressing his annoyance at the current state of alcohol licensing legislation – as he explained at the association’s AGM: “The Irish public are not happy, so much so that over 30,000 signatures objecting to the early closing have been collected and these petitions are ready to be handed into Dáil Eireann.”
Jim McCabe went on to point out that the limitation on the timing of the sale of alcohol was not just an inconvenience, but an economic restriction with very real consequences. “The restriction of trading hours has effectively reduced the period during which specialist retailers can sell by 30 hours per week. This translates to a reduction of sales of up to 40%. As specialist alcohol retailers who have for many years set the standards for responsible alcohol retailing, our members should be the very last to be penalised by early closing.”
Reiterating NOffLA’s commitment to responsible trading, Jim McCabe went on to warn that alcohol abuse can only be tackled effectively by specialist training for staff who have responsibility for selling alcohol directly to the public. “The most effective means of tackling such a situation is through responsible trading and in order to achieve that our association has been highlighting the urgent need for legislation to introduce mandatory training of all staff directly engaged in selling alcohol to the public. Such training is already a requirement for all independent specialist off-licences within our membership.”
The NOffLA Chairman continued by pointing to the inherent dangers in allowing grocery multiples to market and sell alcoholic products irresponsibly: “The ongoing practice of superstores and discounters using cut-priced alcohol to generate increased traffic to their stores continues to result in consumers purchasing alcohol in large volumes and this inevitably leads to alcohol abuse. Furthermore the increased availability of alcohol as a result of relaxed licensing laws, extending the range of outlets selling alcohol, according to all expert opinion facilitates an increase in underage drinking. This is highly irresponsible and serves as yet another example of the need for alcohol licensing to be reinforced.”
Jim McCabe’s strongest criticism was for the last Minister for Justice: “In June 2008 when the Minister for Justice had the opportunity to do something positive towards alcohol abuse he copped out! He has deferred implementing new legislation against the irresponsible promotion of high volumes of cheap alcohol in the expectation that a voluntary code of practice would deter superstores and discounters from marketing in a manner that could lead to alcohol abuse.
The reality is that these large supermarkets and chains have been paying lip service to the voluntary code and have in effect been stimulating bulk purchasing as can be clearly seen with their blatant advertising and promotion of cheap alcohol. The legislation needs to be enacted in full and mandatory staff training needs to be incorporated into the legislation”.
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