Jack Quann
Jack Quann

14.04 15 Sep 2021


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 A former justice minister says Ireland is "a little bit schizophrenic" when it comes to dealing with alcohol.

Michael McDowell was speaking as plans are being developed by Government that could see clubs, pubs and off-licenses trading into the night.

The changes could include staggered and extended closing times for bars and nightclubs.

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The General Scheme of the Sale of Alcohol Bill will also make it easier for cultural venues, like theatres and galleries, to get licences.

A report from the night-time economy taskforce is being examined by senior ministers, which recommends a total revamp to Ireland's licensing laws.

Senator McDowell told Newstalk Breakfast the changes are welcome, but Ireland has had some questionable ideas in the past.

"We've done some stupid things - we've banned the beer advertisements near schools and creches - crazy stuff like that, which was a real kind of sledgehammer to crack a nut stuff.

"And we are also facing proposals that every wine bottle should have a warning about cancer on it."

He suggests this is "deeply problematic" as "you have to open cases of wine and start sticking labels on them when they come into the country."

He says he can understand the benefit to minimum unit pricing, but not other measures.

"I've had no major problem with minimum prices of alcohol to stop hooch being poured into youngster's hands at very, very cheap prices.

"But we are a little bit schizophrenic about this.

"During the summer I was in my local Centra shop and I noticed this semi-cordoned off area where drink is in a particular corner with gates going in and out of it.

"I wonder are all of those things really just kind of wishful thinking?"

And he says local authorities should have more power when it comes to opening times.

"I do remember donkey's years ago a nightclub opening in the middle of Ranelagh - a very big one, Il Mondo - and it did cause trouble.

"And one of the things that I would like to do is to revive an idea which I did have in my legislation, which I think is really being unused, and that is to give local authority members some real control over areas of towns where this can happen and areas of towns where it can't happen.

"And also some say in the hours which these kind of venues can operate.

"Obviously in the city centre in Dublin, there are different social concerns to just simply opening up a nightclub in a country village or town which was quiet until now.

"So there are issues like that that I think should be dealt with by local democracy".

Lawmakers 'have done some stupid things' when it comes to alcohol - McDowell

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Main image: Alcohol is seen for sale in a shop in 2011. Picture by: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

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Alcohol Licensing Law Reform Licensing Laws Michael McDowell Newstalk Breakfast Off Licenses

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