Intoxicating Liquor Bill, 1942—Second Stage.

Wednesday, 14 October 1942

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 88 No. 9

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Minister for Justice (Mr. Boland): Information on Gerald Boland  Zoom on Gerald Boland  I move that this Bill be now read a Second Time. As Deputies are aware, there was an explanatory memorandum circulated with the Bill; hence I think it is only necessary for me to deal with the principal features of it. The House might like to know how it came about that I should bring in a Licensing Bill at this time of the day. Following the passing of the Local Government (Amendment) Act of 1940, which provided for the incorporation of Howth in the County Dublin Borough, I was approached by the Licensed Grocers [1173] and Vintners Protection Association on behalf of their members in Howth. They pointed out that their position was not adverted to when the Local Government Act was being passed through for the purpose of extending the city boundaries, and said that they had been afforded no opportunity of making a case against their being included in the city. I agreed that when people's trading rights are interfered with by legislation, which does not specifically purport to deal with them, they should have an opportunity of stating their case.

It was because of the speed with which the Local Government Act was passed through the House that an opportunity was not afforded to those traders of stating their case. I promised to look into the matter, and that led me to look into the position in regard to the Intoxicating Liquor Acts in general. I know that from the time I went to the Department of Justice complaints have been made by the Commissioner of the Gárda Síochána of the growing public scandal created by abuses in connection with the bona fide traffic. The Guards complained that they were not able to prove that the people who had been causing these abuses were not entitled to be on licensed premises drinking during hours when they would not be entitled to get drink in licensed premises in their own areas. This bona fide exemption, as everybody knows, was introduced at a time when travelling was slaw, and when circumstances were altogether different from what they are at the present time. As the words bona fide connote, the exemption was meant to provide purely and simply for genuine travellers and not for people who could get on a bicycle and ride out into an area where, by doing so, they could get drink. By travelling three miles from their own area they were able to get drink, although during those hours they could not get drink in their own areas. By riding out on a bicycle to those licensed premises they could remain drinking there until “the cows came home in the morning”. As a result of the development of modern transport, that is what is happening.

[1174] It is well known that at the present time people leave licensed premises in the county boroughs and take a car or a bus out into one of those areas where this bona fide traffic is permitted, and remain drinking on licensed premises there until the small hours of the morning. This thing has become a gross public scandal. I am sure that every Deputy and everybody in the country knows of it.

Every Deputy knows what it means to introduce legislation dealing with the licensing laws. I may say that I was just as reluctant to do it as anybody else, but in view of the complaints that I have got from the Guards, and from decent people in those areas, I felt that I would not be justified in allowing this thing to continue. I approached the Government on the matter and this Bill is the result. For my purposes one section dealing with the bona fide traffic would be sufficient, but when we were tackling the question at all, I felt that there were some other points that were deserving of consideration—some of which were held to be a hardship on the licensed trade itself. It frequently happens, in the case of Acts of Parliament, that when they have been working for some time, it is seen that there is need for amending them. There is undoubtedly room for amendment of some of the provisions in the 1927 Licensing Act. When we were taking up this matter I thought that we might as well get after these. Consequently, we have the Bill in the form in which it has been presented to the House.

There is, first of all, the matter of night drinking, which has developed to an alarming extent outside the city areas and in the country areas. A dance, for example, may be held on a Sunday in a rural area where there is no bona fide exemption until after 12 o'clock midnight, but one minute after 12 o'clock, the public houses there can open and people can drink in them all night. Unless the Guards can prove that they came there solely for the purpose of getting drink, they cannot interfere. That applies, not only to the city areas but the country areas as well.

In rural areas, in order to cater [1175] for bona fide traffic, public houses can remain open on Sundays from 1 to 7 p.m. in the winter time, and from 1 to 8 p.m. in the summer time, or, if the district justice so decides, from 2 to 9 p.m. That, as we all know, has led to very serious trouble. On Sundays the public houses in the county boroughs close at 5 p.m. After that hour crowds of undesirable people travel out to those outlying areas and create pandemonium. There is no question about that. That has gone so far that the Guards have had to be specially reinforced to try to cope with the situation. The thing has become a perfect scandal. In this Bill I am proposing to abolish the bona fide trade altogether on week days and to leave it as it is on Sundays. But so as not to make it worth while, as I hope, for people to go out from the cities for the purpose of getting drink on Sunday evenings, I propose to extend trading hours in the county boroughs by fixing the closing hour at 7 p.m. I hope that this provision will have the effect of putting an end to the rowdy scenes that have been taking place in these outside areas. If we do succeed in putting an end to them, then our action in bringing in this Licensing Bill will have been well worth while.

As far as Howth is concerned, I have looked into the position of the traders there. I do not see that there is any reason why there should be any special legislation for Howth. With the extension of the closing hour to 7 o'clock on Sundays, I think they will be pretty well catered for. It was inevitable that, at some time, Howth and some of the other areas surrounding the City of Dublin would be incorporated in the city. In the past, when areas outside the city boundary were included in the city, the traders in those areas had to conform with the licensing regulations that applied in the city. I do not see that the traders in Howth have any particular grievance at all. At any rate, they have the opportunity now of availing themselves of the facilities that Parliament gives them, and of making their case here.

[1176] It was put to me by the Licensed Grocers' and Vintners' Association that the abolition of the bona fide system on week days will have a very injurious effect on their members in the County Boroughs of Cork, Limerick and Waterford. I understand there is a practice there of having mixed trading, where people from the country would be bona fide during the closing hour in the middle of the day, and it was represented to me that it would entail great hardship on those people if the licensed vintners were not allowed to serve them during that hour. I intend to meet that position with some amendment on the Committee Stage. It was also represented that the hours of one to two and four to seven were not suitable for those cities. The Dublin representatives seem to think that they will suit Dublin City, but the Cork, Limerick and Waterford people say that the hours will not suit them and they want them changed to one to three, and five to seven on Sundays. I am prepared to consider that also if it is thought desirable.

There was another point raised by the licensed vintners and it has reference to compulsory endorsement. In practice I do not think that it has done very much damage or that they have very much of a grievance. Nevertheless, I think it is only right that the justice should have discretion to say whether or not a licence should be endorsed, and that is provided for in the Bill.

There are three sections, each of which provides for, you might say, an individual firm. It is not a usual thing to do, but these firms have been asking the Department for a considerable time past to do something to make their positions right. One of the sections—I think it is Section 6—deals with restaurants which have only wine licences. They want to get restaurant certificates, and, as the law stands, they cannot get them. There are only a couple of firms concerned, Mitchell's and the Savoy Restaurant. There is another section dealing with Findlaters' shops. They have on-licences. Everyone who knows them [1177] is aware they do a general grocery trade and, as they have on-licences, they are compelled to close during the same hours as public houses. They have asked that Section 62 of the 1927 Act should be revived. That would allow these people to make application to change their on-licences to off-licences. They did not avail of Section 62 in time. The section lapsed and they have asked us to revive it and we have done so.

The next section deals with Clery's restaurant. They had a licence up to 1933, but the previous owners allowed it to lapse. The present owner thought it necessary to have a licence for his restaurant and he applied to the court, but the judge said he had no jurisdiction. I am giving the licensing authority jurisdiction, if it so wishes, to grant a licence for Clery's restaurant.

Part IV of the Bill deals with aerodromes and passenger aircraft. It was originally intended that the Minister for Industry and Commerce would bring in this Bill. I refused to do it at the beginning because I was a bit nervous of handling any legislation dealing with the sale of intoxicating liquor. When I found that I was going to bring in the Bill, I agreed to include this in it. When I met the licensed vintners they objected very much to the provision whereby the Minister is authorised to grant certificates; they did not see why the court should not do so. I did not expect any objection of that kind and I did not think there was any real point in it. The aerodromes are a new development and the State is responsible for them, even though it will nominally be a private company that will run them. I do not see any point in the Minister for Industry and Commerce going to the court for a licence —I do not think there is any great point in that.

There are small points here and there about which Deputies may wish to speak, but I think I have dealt with the main aspects and I have given the reason why I felt compelled to bring in this measure. I think the present is an opportune time, because that objectionable trade has died out considerably [1178] since the restrictions on transport were imposed. In addition to the restrictions on transport, I understand that there is a shortage of intoxicating liquor. Some say there is not a shortage but that there is more money available for drink. I do not know what the cause is, but I do know that the publicans are able to sell all they have and that will probably be the case while the emergency lasts, so I think the time is opportune for introducing the Bill. I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time.

Dr. O'Higgins: Information on Dr Thomas Francis O'Higgins Snr.  Zoom on Dr Thomas Francis O'Higgins Snr.  So far as this Bill is an effort by the Minister for Justice to bring about order where at the moment there is disorder, to increase temperance and to remove or prevent drunkenness, I believe that he will have the support of practically every Deputy of this House. Moreover, I believe times are changed and that in such efforts he will have the sincere support of from 90 to 99 per cent. of those people at the moment interested in the licensed trade. Years ago, not too many years ago, the outlook of the average publican in this country was merely to push out the liquor and take in the money. He seemed to think that he had no responsibility for the consequences to the individual, and in most cases appeared to have no responsibility for the condition of the person or the circumstances under which that person partook of refreshment. There has been, since the early days of this State, a very decided improvement all round, particularly in the mental outlook of the members of the licensed trade. There has been an attempt to equip their establishments better, to conduct them better and speaking as a person who covers a very considerable number of miles of road every day, I scarcely recollect when I saw a drunken man.

When I was a boy, the usual experience on every fair day in a country town was for three-quarters of those attending the fair to become so helplessly drunk that it was the intelligence of the donkey that took a person home, that person being fast asleep in the cart. That is an exceptional [1179] thing to witness nowadays. I think this Bill is one which can be more usefully discussed on Committee than on Second Reading. I would fear, however, that when things, at least to the ordinary person, appear to be going in the right direction, the result of any violent or drastic interference may be to do more harm than good, even though the intention is to do good. I should like to see utilised to the very fullest towards cleaning up disorder whatever machinery is at the disposal of the State at the moment and to be satisfied that it had been used to the full and had failed, before I would launch out on an experiment of drastic legislation in a spirit of hoping for the best.

It is within the knowledge of everyone of us that there are houses—not many, but certain houses within a rifle shot of the City of Dublin—which have abused the licences they hold. Bus-loads of people went out in the evening three-quarters drunk before leaving the city at all and they would be served gaily and freely in these premises as travellers until the early hours of the following morning or, in some cases, the late hours of the following morning, and would then be brought back to Dublin as helpless, sodden loads. That was within the knowledge of everyone of us. It was within the knowledge of the Department of Justice and it was within the knowledge of practically every member of the police force from the Commissioner down. These people had to apply for a renewal of their licences annually, and I should be more impressed that the existing machinery had broken down if the Minister had cited these cases where, year after year, the police authorities had objected to the renewal of these licences. We know ourselves, and the Minister knows, that year after year, in spite of the gross, the blatant and the clearly-apparent abuses of these premises, their licences were as gaily renewed as if they were the best-conducted premises in the State.

Let every beast carry its own burden. Under the Acts passed by this Parliament [1180] in the past, ample machinery was put into the hands of the State to deal with a member of the licensed trade who abused his privilege as a licensed merchant. Those instruments were not used and now we have reached a point at which, because, apparently with the sanction of the State, there was gross abuse of a trading licence to the detriment of the public by certain members of the trade in certain areas and no action was taken and no objection made to a renewal of these licences, legitimate traders up and down the country, who have been carrying on their business with meticulous attention and with consideration for the harm done to the human being who is overloaded, are to have capital destroyed, as I might describe it. There are houses here and there on the roads—excellently conducted houses, which would rather go out of business than serve an alcoholic drink to an inebriated man—which, on account of their geographical position, have a purely inflated value because they were on long stretches of road, and taking away the bona fide business from these houses will write the value down to nothing.

If, as I say, I were satisfied that the State or the servants of the State had used the machinery available to them at the moment and that that machinery had failed to effect an improvement or a cure, I should be not only willing but anxious to give the Minister—the present or any other Minister—whatever powers he might ask in order to remove abuses; but I do not believe, in view of the co-operation which the State and people anxious for better conduct within the State have got from the trade as a whole, that it is reasonable or fair to hit the trade as a whole because both the police and the courts have broken down in their duty.

The Minister, in the winding up of his speech, pointed out to us that district justices had told him that they were hesitant to use the powers vested in them by previous Acts because they would have to endorse a licence. Is that not a confession that the courts were not facing up to their responsibilities under the previous Acts? Had [1181] there been even one house in a hundred put out of business because of the manner in which trade was conducted there, there would be no necessity for any interference with legitimate business or with the temperate person who might like or might require a drink after certain hours. I happened to visit the United States during the period of prohibition, and I was appalled at the conditions there. I was appalled at the number of girls not beyond school age who, as a “flapper” in this country might produce a cigarette case, produced flasks with strong liquor inside them. It was nearly impossible to buy as much as a collar stud without being invited to pay at the office, and in the office one would be faced with the strongest drink man ever faced up to. The intention was to clean up, to do good. It was overdone and the result was harm.

So far as stamping out the type of house which keeps open in the small hours of the morning to make drunken men drunker is concerned, there is no sympathy inside or outside the trade for that kind of house. The licences for such houses should never have been renewed within any decent State. Somebody broke down in his job when that could go on year after year in the same places for ten or a dozen years. But to go to the other extreme and hit all because of the offences of a few, I think is a very grave mistake. I would rather see drinking within reasonable hours in well-conducted, well-supervised premises than any form of shebeening growing up in the country.

I believe that the Minister, with the best intentions in the world, is going about this matter in the wrong way in this particular Bill—in that particular clause at least. I would rather see a Minister come in here and look for powers to put a licensed trader completely out of business, so far as withdrawing his licence, for serving drink to any intoxicated man, for having any intoxicated man in his premises over a certain length of time, even though he never served him with drink. I would rather see that business of serving drink to an inebriated man dealt with [1182] drastically; so drastically that one example would steady up the whole regiment, than to approach it by the other line that, because we have bad cases here, many or few, we will strike at the whole lot.

I see dangers in this kind of thing. I can quite picture the case of a perfectly temperate group of people starting on a long night journey and having at a halt, perhaps at the end of 50 miles, a small drink, and then on to their destination. They will start off in the future with the knowledge that there is no stopping place, or that until the other end of the journey that car will become a kind of bottle car where there will be a bottle of whiskey passed round. I would rather see them stopping, having their rest from the wheel and their one drink or two drinks in a well-conducted house, and then going on to the road again, than carrying the stuff with them.

However, as I said at the beginning, the intention at the back of this Bill is sound. The Minister's outlook on the situation, in my belief, is a sincere and well-intentioned one. The particular points that have been discussed are points that may be made and discussed more relevantly in Committee. I do not think that there is any case, or that there ever was any case, for allowing the bona fide trade to operate at all hours and any hour. I think, whether the distance be long or short, there was never any case at any time for having the law standing in such a way that people could spend the whole night drinking in any premises, whether they were travellers or whether they were in a hotel. I think reasonable bona fide hours of trading could be fixed now and should have been fixed long ago, but that you are flying to the other extreme entirely by saying that, because there were abuses here and because people kept drinking all through the night there on account of the existing bona fide law, we should remove the bona fide clauses entirely. I think that is a case of being too extreme quite suddenly. A modification of the existing law, a curtailment of existing bona fide trading hours should be first tried. If that brings [1183] about a complete cure, well and good. If that brings about an improvement, give it a further chance. If that brings about no improvement, then come along with a further Bill to curtail these bona fide hours or remove them entirely. But there is always the danger of reaction. There is always the danger of a certain course producing a reaction which will be more evil in itself than the state of affairs you wanted to deal with.

With regard to the clause dealing with aerodromes, I personally cannot understand it. Here we have a Bill that gives you the impression of a Minister in danger of colliding with himself, because he starts to march one way and comes marching back the other way. He starts to tighten up the trade and, in the middle, you find he is extending the hours in certain places, giving more people longer hours for drinking, and then in the next chapter he is tightening up again. It is a shining example of a man being mentally pulled in two directions, one to strike at the trade, and the other to sweeten the trade. You cannot do that. When you are dealing with a disease, you cannot just aggravate the disease with one dose and try to remedy it with the other. You have to make up your mind as to one firm reasonable line of treatment and then stick to that. But the tail-end of the whole Bill is that we are to create a new licensing Department, namely, the Department of Industry and Commerce. If a man goes on horseback from Cork to Donegal, he is a criminal if he gets a bottle of stout on the way. If he goes by motor from Belfast to Cork, he is a criminal if he gets a bottle of stout on the way. But, if he goes to an aerodrome and takes a curly-wee around the aerodrome, he can drink until the cows come home without any permission from any court. That is all wrong.

Mr. Esmonde: Information on John Lymbrick Esmonde  Zoom on John Lymbrick Esmonde  There is a number of features in this Bill which I welcome as making an improvement in the licensing code, particularly the one [1184] which enables a licence to be transferred from one premises to another. That is an old-standing grievance and I am glad that it is to be remedied. But as regards the main feature of the Bill, which is intended to do away with the bona fide traffic on week days, I am in entire opposition to that. Apart altogether from the views I formed on reading the Bill with regard to that matter, I have received a great number of representations on the subject from constituents and I awaited with interest the case which the Minister would make on that particular topic. As far as I could gather, the case made by the Minister was that there were serious abuses of the bona fide traffic in that persons from large centres of population, who hire hackney-cars or motor cars or travel by bicycle, go outside the three-mile limit, or whatever it is, and indulge in orgies for the rest of the night, create disturbances and put the servants of the State to a great deal of trouble and annoyance. I do not know anything about what is happening around the City of Dublin, or perhaps the City of Cork. If the Minister says these abuses exist, I am quite prepared to accept that. But I do not see why for that reason the whole country should be condemned.

If we go back and examine the matter from the historical point of view, I think we will find that this messing around, if I might use that expression, with the selling of intoxicating liquor is, unless very carefully handled, a gross abuse of the liberty of the subject. There are three parties concerned in the question of the drinking of intoxicating liquor. There is the publican, there is the consumer, and there is the State. About 100 years ago, we all know that there was considerable abuse of drinking in this country and in other countries. We all know that it was necessary to regiment that aspect of our life. I am not referring particularly to this Bill, but in all the legislation which has come before various Parliaments, here and in Great Britain, we have rather adopted the view that there is something wrong in selling drink, that there is something in the nature of a minor vice about the [1185] running of a licensed establishment. Now, if we look at the countries of the world, those countries whose people are akin to us in very many aspects and very many characteristics, we will find that licensed houses are not subject to very severe control at all. The southern European countries and various other countries in Europe are akin to us in very many matters. Here, however, there has grown up at all events a spirit of putting the owner of a licensed premises on his defence and to make him show cause why, perhaps, he should behave himself on certain occasions. The way to look at it is this: that the members of the licensed trade in this country are very worthy citizens indeed. They are considerable contributors, both directly and indirectly, to the national revenue, and in many respects they have proved themselves in the past, as at the present time, to be very substantial and good citizens.

It is not a question only of the licensed trader. It is a question of the individual. Why should a farmer or a farm labourer who is attending a fair in the town of Enniscorthy or the town of New Ross be penalised because two men and two girls get into a motor car in Dublin, drive out a few miles into the country, and indulge in an orgy? That is not right. If that sort of thing is going on, and if that is the reason for the abolition of the bona fide traffic, then some distinction should be made. At the present time, as Deputy O'Higgins pointed out in the illustration which he gave, a person travelling a long distance becomes a criminal if he stops at a licensed premises for the purpose of having a drink. I wish to impress on the Minister that I have at least six communications from constituents of mine, substantial people and good citizens, who have asked me to protest against the abolition of this bona fide trade.

Apart altogether from the representations made by them, I am against the abolition of this bona fide trade. I think that if there have been abuses in certain places, the proper way to deal with them is by administering the [1186] law, and if there is any difficulty in administering the law, then the law should be amended according to that particular difficulty, but to penalise all the citizens of this State for something that may have happened in and around our large cities is a very serious thing indeed. I have a certain amount of experience of a number of cases that have come before the courts from time to time in connection with licensing prosecutions, and nearly all these cases were concerned, not with abuses so far as the country is concerned of the bona fide traffic, but generally were concerned with some local persons who were found on licensed premises who were not entitled to be regarded as bona fide travellers at all. Those are the cases, I think, which have come before the courts, but if the Minister searches his files, I do not think he can get any substantial number of cases, so far as my constituency is concerned—and, I am sure, so far as similar constituencies in the country are concerned—which would show that the bona fide traffic in the country has been abused. If he has such information, then I think that in the interests of the public and interests of all concerned he should give us some examples, but to rest the case entirely upon what has happened in large centres of population is, I think, neither right nor just.

As I say, there are three parties concerned: the State, the individual, and the holder of a licence, and so far as the country districts are concerned I do not think there has been any general complaint at all as regards the way the bona fide traffic has been conducted. I do not know whether any representations have been made to the Minister on that aspect of the case or not, but I know that, so far as my constituency is concerned—and I feel that it must be similar in other country districts—I am definitely voicing the opinion of members of the trade who are respected citizens and of members of all classes generally.

There is one other matter to which I should like to refer before sitting down. As the law is being amended and brought up to date, I wonder [1187] whether the Minister has had to consider at all the question of theatre licences? He is making some extensions with regard to off-licences, and I think he is actually dealing with certain firms, although he does not mention them by name here, but I had occasion recently to take up the matter of the licensing of a theatre—a newly reconstructed theatre—and I found, on consultation with the Government's law advisers, that in the case of an ordinary theatre which had not got some particular Act of Parliament giving it special treatment, being in the capital, or something of that kind, it was impossible to take out an ordinary licence for the sale of wine and so forth in such a theatre. I do not see why a capital city should be placed in a better position in that regard than a country town. In some country towns we have very nice theatres, and we want to advance native drama, and so on, and they should be put in the same position as the big cities. Therefore, I was wondering if the Minister would consider an amendment which would deal with a matter of that kind. I am afraid I have given him rather short notice on the point, but it was found that in the case of this particular theatre in which I was interested the law did not permit that to be done or to place this theatre in the same position as a theatre which produces plays in Dublin or any other large city. My main object, however, in rising was to stress the position with regard to the country citizen who is attending a fair or a market, or something like that, and who is deprived of his right to have a drink in a local establishment.

Mr. Norton: Information on William Norton  Zoom on William Norton  I just desire to make a few brief observations on this Bill, and I suppose there is no subject upon which it is more important to have a frequent review of our legislation than that dealing with the regulation of the intoxicating liquor trade in this country, because I think it has been admitted by everybody that public tastes in the matter of intoxicating liquor change very rapidly, and the psychology of the consuming public [1188] and of the non-consuming public changes rapidly also. It is desirable, therefore, to have a periodical review of our intoxicating liquor legislation with a view to fitting that legislation into whatever change has taken place in the meantime, and, at the same time, catering for an improved psychology so far as the consuming public are concerned.

I should think that the overriding consideration in connection with the regulation of the intoxicating liquor trade is to provide reasonable facilities for reasonable people and at the same time to take such legislative steps as may be possible to eliminate possible abuses of the facilities provided, but I do not think that this amending Bill— which is, I think, the first Bill we have had since 1927—makes any comprehensive approach to the regulation of the intoxicating liquor business in relation to the changes which have taken place in the interval or in relation to our experience of the operation of the law in the interval. I think the Minister might well have got the views of a body of reasonable people, not partisans on the one side or the other, because I always take the view that the person who wants to prevent everybody from having a drink on Sunday is really just as dangerous as a person who wants an all-night house. The road to legislative sanity seems to me to lie between those two extremes. I think the Minister might very well have got the viewpoint of sensible people on this question, with a view to evolving legislation which would cater for reasonable and moderate tastes within the country. I do not think the Bill does that, and I would suggest to the Minister at this stage that if such reasonable persons be members of this House he might usefully refer the Committee Stage of this Bill to an all-Party committee in the hope that, as a result of an examination of the existing licensing laws, it might be possible to produce a Bill which would cater for the point of view of the ordinary sensible man in the street—and that is the only person I am concerned with in my remarks on this Bill.

The 1927 Act produced, of course, a number of anomalies. As a matter of [1189] fact it perpetuated anomalies which had been already created. I could never understand, for example, why a person living in Dublin was entitled to have refreshments between 2 and 5 p.m. on Sunday when a person in Naas, for instance, was not entitled to get a drink between those hours. This is a single entity; this is one country; this is a national Parliament and yet we proceed to legislate in such a way that a person in Dublin can spend three hours in a public house on Sunday while a person in Naas must pass by the public-house door. If he knocks at the door, he is in danger of being apprehended by the Guards. I could never understand that differentiation and I cannot understand it now. As a matter of fact, I believe that that differentiation between Dublin and, for instance, a town like Naas or any other town in the country is responsible for many of the abuses of the existing licensing laws.

I am with the Minister when he says there is abuse of the bona fide laws. There is nobody who has any experience who does not realise that there is very considerable abuse of the bona fide laws, and anything that can be done reasonably to curtail that abuse is something of which I think all good citizens will approve. But, let us examine for a moment the position in Dublin to-day. No person can have refreshments between 2 and 5 p.m. in Dublin on Sunday. If a person happens to come from the provinces to a football match starting at 2.30 or 3 p.m., and wants to get a good seat on the field, he has to be on the field at approximately the time the public houses open, and by the time he leaves the field and makes his way to a licensed premises, he probably discovers it is about 5 o'clock, and he will not be admitted. He has to travel back to the country, and, if he goes by train, it is probably non-stop, and he can get no refreshments until he gets home. Why should not he be allowed to get some facilities when he is visiting Dublin, either before or after the match? He has not got them up to the present. I think there is some improvement manifest in this Bill in that it makes some effort to cater for [1190] a person who comes from the country to Dublin to a football match or any other function. It will now be possible for him to get facilities which were not available for him in the past. But here again this Bill seems to perpetuate anomalies. I do not see any very essential difference as a city between, let us say, Waterford and Galway. Under this Bill a person in Waterford will be entitled to go into a licensed premises between 1 and 2 p.m., and, I think, between 4 and 7 p.m. A person living in Galway is not supposed to want any refreshment between these hours, or at any other time, on Sunday. Will the Minister tell us what is the reason for permitting a person in Waterford to have refreshments between these hours, while at the same time telling the man in Galway that he must discover some other method of satisfying his requirements in the matter of refreshments on Sundays? It is a curious anomaly in the Bill, not merely in regard to Galway but in regard to any small provincial town. Anybody living five miles outside Galway can come into Galway on Sunday and get a drink, but the local man is placed in the position of having to watch outsiders coming in, and going into licensed premises as bona fide travellers while he is deprived of going into such premises.

I am not such a fool as to imagine that all the people in Galway or in any other town abstain from going into licensed premises on Sunday, but it is because they can get into licensed premises on Sunday, in defiance of the law, that the licensing laws have been brought into disrepute. As a matter of fact, I think an examination of the mentality of a lot of citizens would disclose the fact that they do not regard it as a breach of the law to evade the licensing regulations. Most people will talk very cheerfully and very craftily about the way in which they manage to get a drink when nobody else could possibly have done it. All that, of course, brings the licensing laws into contempt. There is no use in this House passing legislation to regulate the intoxicating liquor trade in this country unless that legislation is reasonable and can be enforced. It [1191] seems to me that one of the easiest ways in which licensing legislation can be enforced in this country is to stop abuses of the bona fide trade. Anybody who comes along any County Dublin road on Sunday, particularly Sunday evening, cannot fail to observe the gross abuses of the bona fide trade in some public houses. I have seen men and women brawling in the middle of the public thoroughfare on some of these roads. I have seen Guards doing their best to stop what looked like miniature civil war. That kind of abuse has got to be stopped. From what I see, I have not a great deal of sympathy with the person who wants a drink in such circumstances on a Sunday evening in the vicinity of the city, but I suggest to the Minister that there is something wrong with the situation in which, for instance, on Sunday evening, a man in Skerries cycles to Balbriggan, and when he gets to Balbriggan he can get a drink, and a man in Balbriggan cycles to Skerries, where he can get a drink. In other words, each man has to travel four or five miles in opposite directions in order to get a drink. If the scheme were to sell bicycles I could understand it. If the scheme were to wear out bicycle tyres, I could understand it, but it does not seem to me to make sense to require everybody to leave his town on Sunday and go five miles in order to get a drink. I would like to know how the Minister can justify that kind of movement of population on a Sunday for the purpose of satisfying thirst.

I would suggest to the Minister that he should make a new approach to the whole question and the new approach might be to allow all the licensed premises in all the towns and rural areas to open for a certain reasonable period every Sunday. I do not mind what the duration of that period is. Let it be reasonable. Then you will be able to ensure that a man, for instance, who lives in Carlow will be able to get a drink in Carlow on Sunday and will not have to go five miles away to get it. Some people, unfortunately, who go out on what is described as the bona fide trade come back much the [1192] worse for drink but, if they are going to be under the influence of drink, then it is better that they should be under the influence of drink in their own town rather than that they should be in that condition five or ten miles away. The risk to those coming home, and to other users of the road going home, does not justify the State in putting them in that position. What the State is really saying to a man in a provincial town is that if he wants to get a drink he can go three miles away and get all the drink he likes; he can come back in any condition he likes, fall off his bicycle if he likes, but that, under no circumstances, will the State relax the obligation on him to travel the three miles to get drink. I am looking at this from the point of view of trying to avoid the abuses which have brought the licensing laws into contempt and, at the same time, to provide reasonable facilities which will tend to eliminate those abuses. I think it would be well worth the Minister's while to consider allowing every licensed premises in the country to open on Sundays for a reasonable period. That will stop the migration of people who want refreshment from their own towns. It will keep them there and, in my opinion, will help to stop the abuses which everybody knows occur on Sundays. If the Minister would make that approach to this whole question I feel sure that he would be providing reasonable facilities for people on Sundays and, at the same time, would be avoiding the open breaches of the licensing laws which everybody knows exist today—breaches which are bringing those laws into contempt, and creating disrespect for those who are supposed to administer those laws.

Mr. Corry: Information on Martin John Corry  Zoom on Martin John Corry  My attitude to this Bill is practically the same as that of Deputy Norton. One of the first planks in the Constitution is equal rights for all citizens. What have the ordinary farmers and farm labourers done that the city people must look on them as a class of savages? They are not even to be trusted to go into a public house on a Sunday for a drink. The Minister has stated that he is catering for the city people in this Bill so that they [1193] need not leave their own district if they want to get a drink on a Sunday. He also stated that he was changing the hours for bona fide travellers in the country. The ordinary farmer and farm labourer have only one day in the week for themselves. On that day the Minister is going to compel them, if they live five or six miles away from a public house, either to go into the city where they can find a “pub” with the door wide open and drink away for four hours, or, on the other hand, travel three miles in the country to get a drink. The classes that I speak for have certain work to do on Sundays. It is work that must be attended to. Cows have to be fed and milked on Sundays as well as on Mondays. Sunday is the one day in the week that the farmer can meet his neighbours. Is there any reason in the world for treating the ordinary farmer and farm labourer in a different way from the way that you treat city people? If there is, we who represent the rural population are entitled to know it. I can see no reason for treating them differently from city people. I am sure that the Minister is a reasonable man. He has approached this Bill in a reasonable way. As Deputy O'Higgins has said, the Minister was right in his attitude, that if he found a particular measure was pressing too hard in one place he would do something to relieve the blister, and if, on the other hand, he found there were abuses, then he was going to see that they were ended. I agree with that.

The licensing laws, as far as the rural population are concerned, are a joke at the present day. They are not being observed, and it is beyond human nature that they could be observed. I say that, speaking from 20 or 30 years' experience of their operation in the country. I remember that when I was the licensing authority in my part of the world I left every public house open for four or five hours on a Sunday. When we checked up afterwards we found that these extra opening hours did not mean that there was one extra tierce of porter sold.

That went on during a period of two years. The farmers were able to come in on a Sunday evening and meet their [1194] neighbours and have a chat. Was not that a better system than to have one fellow outside the public house watching for the “bobbies”, while another fellow shot into the public house through the back door to get a drink. There are many abuses at the present day in connection with the licensing laws. I have seen people leave the chapel during the sermon in order to be able to get a couple of pints before the Guards came out at the end of Mass. I have seen these things happening. It is a common practice in some areas where the sergeant is a bit strict. Thank God, very few of them are at the present day. But these are ordinary everyday happenings that we can see with our eyes. Can any sensible reason be given for not extending to the rural areas the same facilities which the Minister is now proposing to give to the cities? He has said that under this Bill the city people need not leave their own districts in order to get a drink on Sundays. To accomplish that, he is making certain changes in connection with the opening of city public houses, but he is putting further restrictions on publicans in the rural areas as regards serving travellers on Sundays, and on Sunday opening. If the Minister is so anxious that people in the cities who want a drink on Sundays should not leave their own districts, why not apply the same rule to the rural areas? If there is any sensible reason why the same rule should not apply, then let us hear of it.

Although I am a teetotaller I spend as much time in public houses during prohibited hours as any man living. If I go to Mass on Sunday and meet people that I want to do business with, people who have travelled five or six miles, am I to stand outside the public-house door while they are getting a drink? My business has to be done with them inside. Am I to be prevented from asking them to have a drink? Sunday, as I have said, is the only day on which the ordinary farmer has an opportunity of meeting his neighbour, and of having a chat with him. If those men like to have a drink on a Sunday, are they to be compelled to travel five or six miles to the nearest city in order to get it? If they [1195] do that they can spend three or four hours in the city “pub”, and then travel home. Would it not be much better to end that kind of abuse? Why the necessity for having the Guards galloping around every Sunday watching the local public houses, seeing whether the front door or the back door is open, or closing their eyes and walking on? Is it not better to end it? I do not believe it would lead to any abuse in the way of extra drink. Drink is so dear at the present time that people cannot afford to drink much of it with the wages they have. They cannot drink enough and they cannot get enough.

I am concerned with one aspect of the Bill, and I am appealing to the Minister, as a sensible man, to look at it from the viewpoint that all citizens are entitled to be treated alike. If it is all right for a man living at 49 Patrick Street to go out on a Sunday at 1 o'clock and walk into a “pub” at No. 50, stop there for an hour, come out and have his dinner, go back at 4 o'clock and come out at 7 o'clock—if it is legal for him to walk in next door for four hours on a Sunday and drink away, what is the objection to the unfortunate farmer, who in most cases has to walk at least a mile to the local public house for a drink? If there are any reasons why the rural population should be treated in a different way from the city people, let us have them here, and let there be a free vote on the matter. In that way Deputies representing rural constituencies will be able to vote as they think right and just.

Mr. Linehan: Information on Timothy Linehan  Zoom on Timothy Linehan  I entirely agree with Deputy Corry, though I am not quite so cross about the discrimination between the rural and the urban dweller. I think it is unfortunate that the Minister has merely continued with something that has long been the case. I am very much inclined to believe that it would be one of the best things that could be done if we were to have a Sunday opening in the rural areas. It is not so much that people feel it smart to evade the licensing laws, or that they have not a regard for those laws; it is the fact that on Sunday in a small [1196] country town, or in a purely rural area where there is a “pub” at the cross-roads, the people are not working, they have nothing to do unless to attend a football match locally, or congregate in groups in order to talk matters over, and it would be beyond human nature to expect those people, if they have a desire for a drink, to stay out of the public house. It would be equally beyond human nature to expect the publicans to refuse to let them in. I am inclined to think that instead of increasing drunkenness it would probably have the very reverse effect.

At the present time, when people make a habit of evading the law and going into public houses during prohibited hours, the type of person concerned is one who does not care what public opinion thinks about it. That type of person will take a chance at all hours of the day or night, and when he gets into a public house he will stay in. If the public houses generally are open, you will have the normal type of individual, who is not anxious to break the licensing laws, going in, and I suggest that the average type of the company will be of a much higher standard from the point of view of the locality than it would be if it were confined only to those people who are so anxious to get in during prohibited hours. Again, I suggest that the persons accustomed to going into public houses during prohibited hours would not be inclined to drink so much. That inclination would not be so much in evidence as it might be if they were drinking on Sundays during the prohibited hours, in the darkness of the evening and behind closed doors.

If the Minister did concede opening hours to rural areas on Sundays, I think something on the lines of the split hours suggested for Dublin would be most suitable, say, 1 to 2 o'clock in the summer time and 5 o'clock to 7 o'clock in the evening. If we were to have merely the 3 o'clock to 5 o'clock opening it would not be so useful. I am thinking of the type of person Deputy Corry mentioned, the person inclined to run out before the service was finished. That is the type of person who has to travel a long way, very often in bad weather, and there is nothing unreasonable in allowing [1197] these people to have refreshments. I believe that 90 per cent. of these people will not delay in the towns. I think some concession of that kind would suit the country people very well. My opinion is that the average country publican will do everything possible to obey the law if he gets the chance to do it, but, unfortunately, so long as you have a position like the present Sunday position, when people cannot legally get a drink in their own locality, there is an overwhelming inducement to the publican to break the law and, if one publican breaks the law, every other publican must follow suit or lose his trade.

That brings me to one point I was very anxious to mention on an occasion like this. If you have a prosecution for trading during prohibited hours on Sunday, under the provisions of the 1927 Act, the publican is prosecuted for having people on the premises and supplying them with drink. He is fined £2 and a record is imposed, and the nine or ten gentlemen in the public house are fined 1/- if they answer to their names and 2/6 if they do not. One of the reasons why illegal trading is forced on the publicans in places like that is because you have these gentlemen who will insist on getting a drink. They will kick the back door and practically break it in and insist on getting a drink. These people know that if they are prosecuted they will be fined only 1/- or 2/-. The publican has to run the risk of being fined a couple of pounds and having his licence endorsed. I suggest seriously to the Minister that where people are prosecuted for being on licensed premises during prohibited hours there should be a minimum fine of 10/-. That would teach these gentlemen not to be pressing the publicans so hard. Very often it is the publican who has been convicted once or twice who is in the hardest position. Such people do not do the best trade in an area. They may have one or two records, and that does not help their trade very much in rural areas, and the fact that they have not a very good class of trade means they are more open to this type of pressure from people than they otherwise would be.

As regards the abolition of the bonafide[1198] trade on weekdays, if that provision goes through I think it would be entirely wrong so far as country districts are concerned. As regards the operation of the licensing laws in the country districts, you have the normal hours on weekdays, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. That really means 9 o'clock old time, and that is early enough to be closing public houses normally without adverting to the bona fide trade at all. They have to shut a half-hour earlier on Saturday, and that means that they actually shut at 8.30 p.m. old time. If you wipe out the bona fide traffic you will be imposing very great hardship on licensed traders in the country. I suggest that the extra half-hour should be allowed on Saturdays in rural areas. I do not see why the public houses should be obliged to close there half-an-hour earlier than on the other nights in the week.

Let me take the type of person to whom other Deputies referred, the man who is working hard in the country during the week and who is paid on Saturday night. He comes into town and possibly gets a shave and then, when 9.30 summer time arrives, he finds he is late if he wants to get a drink. You cannot blame him for trying to slip in the back door to have a few. The whole thing which agitates my mind in respect of this attempt to mend the licensing laws is that if you abolish the bona fide trade completely in rural areas, which means that the public houses are to shut down at 9 o'clock on five nights of the week and at 8.30 p.m. on Saturday night, you are only going to induce people to break the law to a greater extent than ever before.

I am prepared to go this distance with the Minister. The real danger in rural areas in the bona fide traffic is late at night, and I think the Minister adverted to it when he mentioned dances. The real trouble is the period after 12 o'clock, and I think the Minister should visualise a system of this nature: that the bona fide traffic be allowed to continue from the normal closing time to 12 midnight ; that there be an interval from midnight to 6 a.m. during which no trade of any kind be carried on ; and that from then on to the normal opening hours, the bona fide[1199] trade be again allowed to be carried on. That would meet the reasonable needs of 99 per cent. of the people whose work or business takes them on long journeys through the country. The people who would be hurt by the fact that it was not possible to get drink between midnight and 6 a.m. would not be very many. I think the hour should be as early as 6 o'clock in the morning in order to cater for people who have to go long journeys, such as lorry men engaged in heavy transport work and people attending fairs and markets who have to move around the country at these hours.

I believe it is necessary to go far deeper into the entire question of the licensing laws than the Minister has attempted in the Bill. He has attempted to justify his knocking away the bona fide traffic by what is happening around Dublin. I quite agree that a terribly serious situation exists in that respect, and apparently every Deputy has some knowledge that the situation around Dublin is very serious and must be dealt with drastically, but I think that if the Minister dealt much more broadly with the entire licensing laws and considered these questions of Sunday opening in the country, slightly more reasonable hours on Saturday night in the country and some extension of the bona fide hours in the rural areas, he would make a much better job of it. If he did that, people would be satisfied that they had facilities which gave them a reasonable opportunity to get reasonable refreshment and there would not be the inducement to break the law that exists at present.

I would go further and say that, having given the Sunday opening, reasonable hours for bona fide trade on week nights and having given the extra half hour on Saturday—and nobody then could quarrel with the facilities—I would be far stiffer in my penalties on either the publican or the person caught on licensed premises in contravention of the licensing laws. I do not blame justices for being reluctant to impose heavy fines on a publican on whose premises four or five people are caught on a Sunday [1200] evening in the rural areas. I know the circumstances and I know the position, but there could not be any reluctance on the part of a justice to impose penalties on a publican who had a reasonable opening on Sunday, who had plenty of time to do a proper trade and to cater for the ordinary people. There would be no reason for a District Justice to be reluctant to impose a very stiff penalty on such a publican if he were brought before him for a breach of the licensing laws.

If we face the situation that we cannot be too stiff about the licensing laws and that reasonable hours and reasonable facilities for travellers are necessary and that there should be a balance of treatment as between the country districts and the urban areas which would not show any great distinction between them, I think the more level we get and the more we even out the hours, the better it will be for everybody. People are becoming sensible and would be quite satisfied if the facilities were fairly reasonable and they would not go out of their way to break the law. The day you get people to obey the licensing laws in a reasonable manner because you give reasonable facilities, you will have ten times more respect for law and order and ten times a better morale in the country.

Mr. Kennedy: Information on Michael Joseph Kennedy  Zoom on Michael Joseph Kennedy  I congratulate Deputy Linehan on a very reasonable speech and on approaching the question with a good knowledge of the subject. I am very much afraid that there is a city mentality behind this Bill, and that, as several other Deputies have said, because of certain abuses around Dublin, certain recreational rights of the ordinary citizen are to be stamped out. The part of the Bill which deals with bona fide traffic is a mild form of prohibition. I never saw poteen made in my county until whiskey became scarce. There has been a scarcity of whiskey for the past year and the poteen still has come into operation again. Does any Deputy seriously contend that you are, by legislation, going to stop the farmer or the farm labourer from getting a pint of beer on a Saturday night after ten o'clock summer time, which is 8.30 by the sun, [1201] which is not fully down? You are not. You are going to create abuses galore.

The 1927 Act was an ideal Act in one respect, wherein it did away with the redundant public houses and stamped out abuses. Take a town with a fair number of public houses in it— sufficient to cater for the population— and another town congested with public houses. In the first town, the licensing laws are observed fairly well, while, in the other town, shebeening goes on from morning to night. A publican gets broken in the second town and is forced to sell out. Some young man of enterprise gets hold of it and the only way in which he can make trade is to get the young bloods in after hours and keep them there until three or four o'clock in the morning. If the 1927 Act had been in force and if the Department had got over the obstacles created by the cost of valuing premises, there would not be all the abuses we know of in the rural areas.

As I say, in a town with well-conducted public houses, the licensing laws are fairly well observed, and the point which I think everybody in the House is agreed on is that this complete abolition of the bona fide traffic is wrong and the Minister should reconsider the whole position. A farmer and his wife go into town on a week night—most of them go in on a Saturday night, but they go in on other nights, too—when his hay is made up in the month of June, or perhaps when some of his early corn is ready in July and August. His wife goes into the grocery part and buys the goods for the week, while he goes in and has a pint. He is as much entitled to have a pint as the Englishman or any other citizen, but the pint has become a word of contempt, and anyone taking a pint is looked on by a certain section who have gone to the other extreme, as mentioned by Deputy Norton, as an outlaw.

The wife is dealing in the grocery and the husband is having a drink. If you put this section into operation as it appears in the Bill, that man and his wife can be brought up at next court for being on the premises after prohibited hours although they had been previously out in the fields working [1202] hard. I hope the House will persuade the Minister to amend the section which does away with the bona fide traffic after 10 o'clock on a summer's evening.

The Minister referred to abuses at dances. Very well. What will happen now? The committee of the local hall will go to the District Court and apply for a licence for a bar at the local hall. In that way, you will have bars in all the dance halls at every cross-roads in the country, and the worst class of drink being sold in them, too. Everybody knows that they do not supply the best kind of drink at these dances. I will be told that the district justices will not grant licences. Will they not? Under the law they have full power to do so. Are not those who complain about the number of dance hall licences granted all over the country protesting and asking what can they do? Certain district justices do not grant dance hall licences indiscriminately, here there and everywhere. Do all district justices act in that way? They do not. If they have this discretion, certain district justices will exercise it in the wrong way and will give licences for bars to every little dance hall in the country. The result will be that the abuses which you want to stop will be increased one-hundredfold, and you will have bars where there was never a bar before. Therefore, this question should be examined very carefully. With Deputy Linehan, I would go so far as to say that you should stop the bona fide traffic at midnight or, preferably, 1 a.m., which would be midnight, old time. As one Deputy said, if a man who is coming from Galway to Dublin was used to taking a drink, you will not make a teetotaller of him at 50 years of age; you will not reform him then and make him a pioneer. If he wants a drink at Athlone at present he calls at the hotel. It is not a criminal thing to ask for a drink. If he is prevented from having a drink at an hotel on the way, he will buy a bottle of whiskey in Galway and consume it on the way, although he is driving a car.

If Deputies will examine statistics of convictions for drunkenness in the State during the last 20 years, they will find that they have been on the decline [1203] the whole time. If they examine the question of the consumption of spirits, they will find that that consumption has been declining the whole time. People are taking beer and lighter drinks. Even the consumption of beer outside the cities is going down. Under one of the sections in this Bill— I think it is Section 6—it will be possible for the owners of certain premises in the city to get an extension of their wine licences in order to sell spirits. I should like to ask the Minister if that will apply to other places where people have wine licences.

I have referred to the fact that I thought the 1927 Act was the best licensing Act introduced in this House in that it provided for the closing of redundant public houses. It should be revived. But, in its revival, this evil should not be allowed to occur. I know a town in the Midlands where they did away with a number of public houses. But what happened? People bought premises, had the word “hotel” put over the door, put beds into ten bedrooms, and got an hotel licence. For every public house that was shut, a hotel licence was got for another place. Clubs were opened and licences for them were granted. Of course, all that was within the discretion of the district justice. If redundant public houses are closed and so-called hotels are allowed to be opened instead, you will be creating a greater evil, because hotels have greater security from the Guards. They have ways and means of getting rid of their clientéle. There will, therefore, be greater danger of people getting drink in these towns than there would be with small public houses which are always under the supervision of the Guards.

The principal reason why I speak on this matter is that I think it is wrong to embody in the Bill a provision for the complete abolition of the bona fide traffic on week days. I do not agree with other Deputies who advocated that public houses in the country should open on Sundays. I think that people should go home after attending Mass or service on Sundays. I would not like to see a march from the chapel [1204] to the public house. I think it would be a step in the wrong direction to open up public houses after Mass in these places. With regard to opening up public houses at other hours on a Sunday, I think it would be very wrong. It would be hard on the owners of the shops and on the assistants. People who now do their shopping on a Saturday or other week day would come into these public houses, which generally have groceries attached to them, on a Sunday and ask to be supplied with goods. They could not very well be refused. In that way you would have the grocery trade carried on on Sundays, and the relaxation which we gave to assistants by legislation over a number of years would be done away with. They would have to spend their time on a Sunday behind the grocery counter.

I realise the objection there is to the person who gets on his bicycle, say, at Castlepollard and cycles to Mullingar, or the person who cycles from Mullingar to Castlepollard, for drink. Apart from that, however, football matches, sports, concerts, dramatic performances and other forms of amusements are carried on in these places, and when a man travels a distance I think he is certainly entitled to a drink as a bona fide traveller. Therefore, the bona fide traffic should be preserved. You may extend the distance which is required to be travelled if you like, but do not open up trading on a Sunday. Do not turn Sunday into a market day by opening public houses all over the country. I have heard challenges from my side of the House and the other side to show the difference between the city and the other parts of the country. That does not need a lot of explanation. In the city there is a population of some half a million, and the city stretches miles in all directions. Compare that with a little town where at present there is peace and quiteness on a Sunday. Are we going to turn these places into a shambles? That would be a step in the wrong direction. You may curb the bona fide traffic, if you like, but if you do away with it on week days it will lead to the starting of shebeens, the procuring of bar licences for dance houses where bad drink will be sold, [1205] and the manufacture of poteen all over the country.

Dr. Hannigan: Information on Joseph Hannigan  Zoom on Joseph Hannigan  It is quite clear from reading this Bill that the Minister and his Department have taken a unilateral view of the very important matter to which this Bill refers. Surely, the licensing laws in this country were, and still are, supposed to be for the purpose of regulating the sale of intoxicating liquor in such a way as to provide the people with reasonable facilities for obtaining alcoholic beverages, whilst, at the same time, eliminating abuses. It is quite clear that this Bill does neither one nor the other, and one may well ask, did the Minister take into consultation competent bodies who might have advised him and put him on the right line in so far as this Bill is concerned? It seems to me, from reading the Bill, that he sought or took no such advice.

Now, it is true to say that this Bill is designed to provide facilities for people, who feel that they must get drink, to get drunk, but it does not extend facilities to provide in a normal way alcoholic drinks for those who feel that they require them. I must say that it is to the everlasting disgrace of the Minister's Department that certain public houses in the County of Dublin were allowed to carry on in the fashion in which they have been carrying on for several years. I say—and I say it from intimate experience of the facts—that the habitués of these dens of iniquity finish up in one of two places: in a hospital, as chronic invalids, or in a convict prison. In spite of the nefarious traffic, known to be carried on in these places, known to the Department, known to the Minister for Justice to be carried on, it appears that no attempt was made to withhold licences. It is gratifying at least for us to know that we can console ourselves with the fact that these public houses represent only a small percentage of the public houses in the County of Dublin, which have carried on and which, I am sure, are still prepared to carry on, a decent type of trade. I can say, from figures at my disposal, that the percentage of [1206] public houses of the type to which I have referred, would not exceed more than 5 or 6 per cent. of the total in the county.

This is a measure, I must say, on which there will be sharply conflicting views, and I would suggest to the Minister that even if he is not prepared—and he clearly ought to be—to set up a Parliamentary Committee to examine the details of this Bill and to see how improvement might be brought about, the very least he ought to be prepared to do is to leave this measure to a free vote so far as his own Party is concerned, because I am quite certain that if that is not done the members of his own Party will follow him into the Division Lobby against their consciences.

Now, it is generally regarded outside that the Government, in bringing forward this Bill just now, are not seriously concerned with the matter of amending the licensing laws in such a way as to confer any benefits on the community, but are bringing in this measure because of whatever value— and I am sure the Government do attach some value to it—it may have in the general election which is, clearly, in the offing. This Bill has a certain cash value so far as the Fianna Fáil organisation is concerned. I support my contention by referring to two sections in the Bill. In one of these sections it is calculated that the effect of the Bill will be to enhance the premises owned by a single individual by no less than £50,000. It is needless for me to say that this particular individual is a generous supporter of the Fianna Fáil Party, and has been for many years. It is interesting to note also what the judge said when this matter was before the court. He said that even —I am not quoting the judge verbatim—

Mr. Costello: Information on John Aloysius Costello  Zoom on John Aloysius Costello  If you quote him at all, quote him verbatim. It is a written judgment.

Dr. Hannigan: Information on Joseph Hannigan  Zoom on Joseph Hannigan  In any event, he said that even if he had the power to grant the licence to the individual for whom the Minister has brought in this Bill, he would not do so on the grounds of equity, having regard to the fact that [1207] there was already a sufficient number of licences in the particular district. Surely, it is deplorable for the Government to confer a privilege of this kind which, in hard cash, amounts to no less than £50,000 on one of its best-known financial supporters in the country. Section 12 has already become known outside as “the Guiney clause”. We have, too, in Section 16 a further attempt on the part of the Government to accommodate their friends. This section entitles the Minister to grant a licence to an individual to carry on the business in an aerodrome. One wonders why this privilege is not confined to the company, and I understand that at the present time—and it is likely to remain so—our aerodromes are being operated by a company. This abuse, bad as it is at present, will become very much worse as time goes on because, whilst at the moment we have only two or three aerodromes, I suppose that in the course of the next 20 years we will have many times that number, and the Minister for Justice, whoever he may be, and I am sure he will not be the present Minister——

Mr. Boland:  I hope not, at any rate.

Dr. Hannigan: Information on Joseph Hannigan  Zoom on Joseph Hannigan  ——will be able to confer this privilege on a number of his friends. There is very little further that I have to say in connection with this matter, except this. The problem of excessive alcoholic indulgence is serious in this country, and the people who are expected to approach that problem in the most intelligent, constructive and helpful fashion are, surely, the Government. Because the Government have failed completely to take any step in that direction, I say that this Bill is discreditable and deplorable. It is a discredit to the individual Minister responsible for its introduction and it is discreditable to his colleagues in the Cabinet in general.

Mr. Fitzgerald-Kenney: Information on James Fitzgerald-Kenney  Zoom on James Fitzgerald-Kenney  It is very seldom in this House that one hears a discussion in which members of all Parties are so much in agreement as they have been in this discussion. Deputies have spoken from these [1208] benches, from Labour Benches, from Independent Benches, from Fianna Fáil Benches, and there has been a most complete and entire condemnation of a certain part of this Bill, and there has not been one single word said in favour of it. The part of the Bill, of course, to which I refer is the part of the Bill which makes the great change which this Bill will make in our licensing law, that is to say, the part of the Bill which deals with the bona fide traffic. It certainly would seem to me that if the speeches in this House represent public opinion in this country—and they ought to—then surely the Minister, if he persists in this clause, is flying in the face of public opinion and is introducing legislation which, having public opinion diametrically opposed to it, is not legislation which will be respected and observed by the community as a whole.

The Minister's case, as far as I understand, for doing away with bona fide traffic altogether is, firstly, that it has been abused in the neighbourhood of the City of Dublin and, secondly, it is abused in certain parts of the country as far as dances are concerned. Those, I understand, are the two abuses with which the Minister wishes to cope. But, if these are the abuses, why should not the remedy be a remedy commensurate with the abuses, a remedy which deals with the abuses and nothing further or wider than the particular abuses? The Minister can deal with these two abuses, I think, very easily, without doing away with the bona fide traffic altogether. Suggestions have already been made, that is to say, that the hours during which bona fide trading can be carried on should be altered. Now, as far as trading round Dublin is concerned, Dublin and the large cities, as Deputy Norton pointed out, are dealt with as separate entities. In four large county boroughs there is a different licensing law from the licensing law in other parts of the country. Well, have your bona fide law, if you like, dealing with them. Have it that in the neighbourhood of Dublin, within certain hours, there shall be no bona fide traffic, say, between the hours of ten and 12 at night. That would meet the entire situation, if it is necessary to have [1209] legislation upon this subject at all or if legislation on this subject will be in any way helpful.

Very often we come into this House on these social questions with the very best of intentions; we endeavour to cure evils and we subsequently discover that our cures have not been at all as effective as we thought they would be, and that when we thought we were curing a disease in one direction the disease may have appeared cured in that direction, but appeared in some other place. For instance, I remember hearing that one great reform of the licensing trade in this country and the development of a greater spirit of temperance in the population would be the improvement of the public houses.

I remember some years ago I used to hear it said by the leading temperance reformers that if we could have public houses on the continental model, if instead of the dirty, drab places which we had then, we could have nice cheery bright places where men could go and sit down with their wives and families, there would be far less drinking than there is at the present moment. That was some 20 years ago. Now we have the cheerful, nice, bright public houses, places to which men and some of their families do go, but I have not seen any change, as far as temperance goes, at all. In fact, it seems to me that a class of young ladies, if we will call them so, are now frequenting public houses that 20 years ago, before the public house was reformed and made nice, would never have been seen inside one. That seems to me really to be the class of drinking which is doing most social harm. I am not talking now of working-class girls at all, because I do not think it is applicable to them, but of girls of a higher social position, who are obviously, as anybody can see, frequenting the “pubs” very much. Now, there is an example: drinking was to be stopped by having very nice, bright, airy public houses, and you have got, if anything, quite a different result. In the same way it was said there was too much dancing, that dancing should be controlled, and that there would be less dancing if there were licensed dance halls. So, [1210] we proceeded in this House to license dance halls, and instead of checking the number of dances, our legislation simply watered that growing plant, the spirit of dancing in the country. Our legislation has certainly created a mania for dancing which did not exist before the dance hall came.

So, when you are dealing with social matters, you can never be sure that the reform you are looking for will not lead to greater abuse than that you are endeavouring to remedy. It does seem to me that if this bona fide trade was done away with entirely, and if, let us say, a man leaves home at 4 o'clock in the morning, to drive cattle 10 or 12 miles to a fair, unless there happened to be a publican in that particular fair who had got an exemption order, he could get no drink, no matter whether he was a bona fide traveller or not, or no refreshment of any kind, until 10 a.m. Has there been any abuse of the bona fide traffic from 5 a.m. onwards that the Minister thinks the law requires amendment to deal with? If there is, let the Minister tell us. Why is he taking away bona fide traffic in the morning? I did not hear all the Minister's speech, but, as far as I could gather, he made no case at all against bona fide traffic in the middle of the day.

A good deal has been said by various speakers about what is not in the Bill. I do not intend to follow them, but I would like to say that in this Bill there is one clause which I think is badly wanted. Hitherto when a publican in a country district had a ramshackle old house, and built in its immediate neighbourhood a nice new building, he could not transfer from the ramshackle old building to the new building unless the two buildings actually adjoined. I am glad that has been done away with, but I think the section might be drawn a little wider. I draw the Minister's attention to that matter. I would be in favour of leaving out the word “town”. If you confine it to cities and urban areas I think that would be enough. The word “town” might very well be left out because, whatever may be said against a person in a city being able to buy a small public house in a back street of a large city, and [1211] then buying premises in a large front street, and transferring his licence from the back street to the large street, I do not see that it would be liable to any abuse at all in the ordinary country town where really one street is not very much better than another street.

A good deal has been said about the opening of public houses in country places on Sundays. It is quite possible that what a great number of Deputies have urged may be wise: that we should see whether, if the facilities which now exist in the cities were extended to the country places, there might be less drinking, certainly less illegal drinking on Sundays than there is now. It might be well to give that a chance. It might also be well to do away with the strange difference there is between the six-day and the sevenday licences. I have never understood why some public houses should have a seven-day licence and others only a six-day licence. It is an anomaly that I do not understand: why one public house should be able to serve a bona fide traveller on a Sunday, and another not able to serve him. The bona fide traveller passing the one public house will be just as much in need of refreshment as he will when passing the other, and there may be many miles between the two. I take it, however, that, having regard to the criticism to which the main section of the Bill has been subjected by all Parties, Deputies may confidently look to the Minister making very drastic amendments indeed in his proposals dealing with the bona fide traffic.

Mr. O'Reilly: Information on Matthew O'Reilly  Zoom on Matthew O'Reilly  Some way or another, in talking on a measure like this, I always connect it with tobacco growing and revenue duties. I think that the licensing business in this country has a bad tradition. It is my view that it should be scrapped altogether. I do not drink myself, but I have noticed in many towns throughout the country that the “pub” that does the best business is the one that has a door down an alley. Everybody seems to slink in there on the quiet—to be afraid of letting the public see that [1212] they are having a drink. Underlying it is something on the same principle of suspicion that seems to possess Deputy Hannigan. He seemed to think that this Bill was a really popular measure, in fact that it was an election measure. Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney followed him up by saying that nearly everybody is in opposition to it. You will find these peculiar ideas connected with this whole licensing question. I do not see why people should not be allowed to have a drink if they want to. We are the only few islands in the world that have this fantastic system. The United States tried something more extraordinary still, and it failed. Our people are a sensible people, and if they want a drink they should be able to get it. I do not know why we are surrounded by all these peculiar licensing laws. I do not see why public houses should not be made a lot more decent than they are. They should be of a kind that people would go into them and have drinks served to them in a proper way. If we had something along that line it would be far better, I believe, than trying to restrict people. I suppose that when the war is over we will have a big movement of people here. Before the war people who arrived here, in motor cars, after doing long journeys, or by boat, were not, I understand, able to get even a cup of coffee or refreshment of any kind during certain hours.

What is happening in the country? In recent years owing to increased harvest operations, people have to work at every opportunity they get, day or night. Owing to the fact that new time is being observed by the shops, labourers in the country are prevented from getting their needs supplied on a Saturday night. The public houses and the shops are closed. When the labourer comes in to do his business he finds that the whole place is closed up. If we cannot remodel these obnoxious licensing laws we should, at least, give people a chance of getting a drink on a Saturday night if they want one. There should be no such thing as slinking into public houses or watching for the police. If people get drunk or abuse the rights given to [1213] them they should be punished severely. That is my view of the matter.

I suppose there will have to be another measure to amend this one later, or to patch it up. Is that to go on continuously? I think we should allow the people a little more freedom. I do not think they would abuse it. I know there is a good deal of abuse in connection with some dance halls. You also have the position that some public houses can open after midnight while others cannot. You have one man with a six-day licence, and another with a seven-day licence. My view is that if there is a dance, and if the people running it want to have a bar, then let them have it, but make somebody responsible. That would be far better than having people who attend the dances going from one public house to another in motor cars or on bicycles. I do not think that should be allowed at all. Permission should be given to have refreshment provided in the dance hall, but care should be taken to have the hall properly controlled. That would be far better than having a dozen “Baby Powers” stuck in the back of a motor car or in a ditch, or having other people at the dance going to public houses. There has been a good deal of talk about women drinking at dances. I do not think they are going to drink to excess at dances if the dance hall is properly conducted, or are going to make a show of themselves there. They are more likely to do that if they go out to public houses, or go away in motor cars to drink “Baby Powers.” I think that our legislation has really been responsible for some of these abuses. I think that instead of tightening up our legislation on this matter we should give a little more freedom, and that if we do that we will not have half the abuses that are said to be prevalent at the present day. What we want is a little bit more freedom instead of being curtailed.

Mr. Fagan: Information on Charles Fagan  Zoom on Charles Fagan  The whole House seems to be in agreement that the people in the rural areas are not being fairly treated. I could never see why the people in rural Ireland should be treated differently from the people in the cities. There is a lot of talk about the flight from the land, but people [1214] must fly from the country districts if the conditions which now exist continue. Take the case of an ordinary labouring man in the country. He works till 8 o'clock or 9 o'clock, old time, on a Saturday. When he has finished he finds the public houses are shut, and he has no chance of getting a drink unless he can get it illegally. I think the Minister should make operative what seems to be the general opinion of the House, and that is to have an opening on Sunday in the country districts. One Deputy mentioned that there might be a flock of people from Mass if there was an opening on Sunday. So far as my experience goes, there is, at the present time, a flock from Mass. The country people must have some amenities; they are entitled to a little enjoyment.

In a country place, if a man wants to keep the law, he must live quietly in his house and he will have no chance of meeting his friends and neighbours in order to have a chat. One or two pints will not do a man any harm. That is the only enjoyment most people in the country have. The Minister should take serious notice of the views put forward by Deputies here. I am not a person who is anxious to encourage drinking, but I do suggest that the needs of the country people should be considered here. Under present conditions men have to travel several miles in order to get a drink on Sunday. I do not see why, for instance, my workman should have to get on his bicycle and travel three or more miles in order to get a drink. I do not suggest that the public houses should be open for an hour after Mass, but they might be opened from 2 o'clock to 5 o'clock. The people in the country should be given some opportunity of meeting their friends and neighbours and discussing general matters with them. The fact that they are prohibited from having a drink on a Sunday is one of the reasons why there is a flight from the land.

I think the proposals in relation to the bona fide trade are going to do a lot of harm. You are shutting the licensed houses at 10 o'clock, and that means 8.30 old time. I think many publicans will feel inclined to break [1215] the law if you do not extend the hour till 11 o'clock in the summer time and possibly at an earlier hour in the winter. I think publicans are permitted to open up to 12 o'clock for bona fide traffic. Some Deputy suggested there should be no trading between 12 midnight and 10 o'clock in the morning. If you are going to have public houses closed till 10 o'clock in the morning, I do not know what will happen on fair days. It will mean that people will break the law. I have a letter here which was sent recently to the Association of Licensed Vintners in Mullingar. The association held a meeting and they conveyed the findings of that meeting to the president of the local temperance club, who is a priest residing at The Palace, Mullingar. I will not mention his name, but the Minister may have the letter if he desires. Here is what the writer of the letter said:

“Dear Sir—I thank you for your courtesy in consulting me on the findings of your meeting. I am still of opinion that the licensed trade has left itself open to the charge of illegal trading, with consequent social evils. As I stated before, an extension of the trading hours to 11 p.m. might remove the evil and, in the interests of lawful trading and the community in general, it should be legalised and made operative.”

He would be in favour of all the public houses being open to 11 o'clock at night. He goes on to say:—

“With regard to Sunday bona fide trading, as it now exists it has too often become a cloak for illegal business and a desecration of the Sabbath. Fixed hours for necessary business on Sundays would possibly obviate continuous drinking behind closed doors.”

That is signed by the President of the Mullingar Temperance Society. I would like the Minister to give serious thought to that letter. He should think about the people in the country and, if he does what has been suggested here, he will help to stop the flight from the land.

[1216]Mr. Keyes: Information on Michael J. Keyes  Zoom on Michael J. Keyes  It was quite refreshing to listen to Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney's approach to this Bill. He said that the Minister should take due notice of the unanimous expression of opinion against what is regarded as the black spot in the Bill. I have no hesitation in thanking the Minister for removing some of the anomalies that have existed in licensing legislation so far as Limerick is concerned. I believe that what he is proposing in relation to opening hours on Sunday will be a big improvement on the existing law. I notice that he is prepared not to have a one-hour period and that he is in favour of two two-hour periods. I think that would be an advantage. There are difficulties in emptying public houses after one hour. The original proposal was to have public houses opened from 1 o'clock to 2 o'clock and 5 o'clock to 7 o'clock. I suggest there would be great difficulty in clearing out customers after the one-hour period. It would be much better to have a two-hour period, a break for dinner, and two hours in the evening. That would be a great advantage in our cities, because we have been labouring under a great disability up to now in catering for big fixtures. Where an ordinary town would get, say, a big hurling fixture, the superintendent would be able to suggest that owing to the influx of visitors he could not hope to carry out the ordinary supervision of public houses and he would be given certain discretion, but such discretion could not be invested in a Gárda superintendent so far as Limerick, Cork or Waterford would be concerned. I have to thank the Minister in that connection.

He is giving serious consideration to the question of the split hour in Waterford, Cork and Limerick. Whatever benefit there may be in Dublin by having public houses closed between 2.30 and 3.30, such a regulation would have no sensible application in a place like Limerick. Limerick is really an over-grown provincial town, and it is depending largely on the country around it. The publicans there are depending on the occupation of the large areas at the backs of their public houses, and there is great inconvenience caused by the closing of [1217] those public houses in the middle of the day. The people from the country districts come in to make their purchases and when they return to those places they find they cannot get in because the public house has been closed. If the Minister will give favourable consideration to the wiping out of that split hour in the middle of the day, he will receive a vote of thanks from me.

There has not been one dissentient voice in regard to what is referred to as the black spot in the Bill. It is generally felt that it outweighs the good things in the Bill. Why should the Minister persist in the abolition of the bona fide traffic and refuse to recognise the rights of the people in the country districts? We are all anxious to co-operate in enacting a reasonable measure, but we should like to know why there is a differentiation in the case of the country man. Why is he not given certain facilities on a Sunday? Deputy Kennedy was the only Deputy who was afraid of opening public houses on a Sunday, lest there would be a rush from Mass.

Of course, the public houses are open to the countryman, but not in his own village. He can rush from the church to the village a couple of miles away and get drink there, or, alternatively, he can go into a backyard and through a stable or byre into some dark taproom and take whatever is served to him there. It would be much better if he were entitled to have a drink in a public house with its doors open and the shutters down in his own village, and to see that he got what he wanted and be in a position to say, if he wished, that he would not accept it, as it was not up to standard. At present men have to take what is offered to them in these dark, closed-up places where they drink behind closed doors.

There is no case at all for allowing bona fide traffic three miles away and not allowing it to a man in his own village. It causes nothing but hardships and abuses, and these abuses have already been referred to by Deputy Norton and several other speakers. Nobody has put up a case for the retention of this arrangement, and I think [1218] that Sunday opening should be allowed in the country as well as in the cities. It would prevent the rushing of men from their homes to get drink; it would mean that they would be nearer their homes for their dinners; that they would get what they want, and that there would be very little abuse.

On the question of the bona fide law and its wiping out, one might ask why the Minister has been advised to take this step. He has been perfectly frank in telling us of the scandals taking place around Dublin. Nobody in the House is going to challenge that; but I do not think the Minister was quite so convincing when he said there were abuses in other parts of the country. He did not go into very much detail on that point, and, coming from country districts, we should be inclined to look for more evidence of abuses arising from the bona fide traffic. There may be isolated cases of discreditable scenes, but I think they are almost negligible compared with what is taking place in County Dublin.

There has always been a tendency for the legislation of this country to have a metropolitan outlook, and I am very glad that Deputies have shown their country outlook in resenting that metropolitan infliction on the general body of citizens because of abuses by metropolitans. You are not going to punish guilty persons by taking away the traditional rights of Irish citizens who have to travel long journeys to fairs and markets, and who have to stand out in all kinds of weather waiting for buyers. These people have not abused the privileges they enjoyed through the years. There people have not evidence in recent times of any abuses. They start at 4, 5 or 6 o'clock in the morning, and they have been able to get drinks by the wayside which have preserved their health, and maybe their lives. I do not think any case has been made for the complete wiping out of that traffic.

If an evil exists in the Dublin area, grapple with it and deal with it, and, if necessary, introduce a special Bill to deal with it, but the conditions obtaining in the environs of Dublin are quite distinct from those in the rest [1219] of the country, and there is no case made for the reflection of the abuses which have been described, and about which we read in the papers in inflictions on the ordinary citizen who only wants facilities for reasonable drinking for his health or for his purposes of natural recreation.

With regard to the right given to a publican to transfer his licence from one premises to another, that right is confined to country districts, and Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney asked that it should be extended to towns. I want to know: Why not the cities? I think it is a very good clause, but I cannot understand the reason for its being confined to districts outside the urban areas. In my own city, there is an area where a slum clearance scheme is in operation. A publican who had his premises there drew the entirety of his customers from the area behind his premises. These people have been removed to a district far away from him under the clearance scheme, and he is left with his public house and no clientéle. Would there be anything wrong in enabling such a man, who carried on a decent, legitimate trade, to buy a public house of a better type in another part of the city?

I know that resentment and jealousy might be caused among the publicans in the other area—they have told me that themselves—but I think that, in equity, these cases should be examined on their merits. I know several cases of the kind—and the same is probably true of Cork and Dublin—arising out of slum clearance schemes. There ought to be facilities for the transfer of a licence to a better premises, or to an equally good premises, so that a publican will not be left standing derelict amidst broken walls on a slum clearance scheme. That is a point I should like the Minister to deal with. He has given the concession which we all appreciate to publicans in the country, and I think there is a case which should be considered, for giving the same facility to publicans in cities where a genuine case can be made— not of the type referred to by Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney, of somebody [1220] coming in by a side wind and taking over a ramshackle public house in order to get hold of the licence when he had the money to get a decent premises.

That case would be exceptional, but the case I refer to would be much more the rule—that of a publican whose customers have been removed from the district, with the result that he is left derelict. The same privilege ought to be extended to such a man as is extended to country publicans. I appreciate that there are some good points in the Bill and I think it will make for a general improvement in the licensing laws, if the Minister will give ear to the unanimous appeal of the House not to persist in his proposal to wipe out the bona fide traffic and not to persist with the anomaly of closing public houses in the country on Sundays, but to give the country man the same facilities for getting a drink as are enjoyed by the man in the city.

Mr. Bennett: Information on George Cecil Bennett  Zoom on George Cecil Bennett  I was hoping that we had reached the end of legislation to impose restrictions on the ordinary citizen in respect of access to certain beverages, and, if there was to be any change in the existing law, I rather thought it would be in the direction of modification rather than the imposition of further restrictions. The Minister's explanation was that it was the actions and perambulations of certain Dublin blackguards which led him to bring in this legislation. He said to-day that these individuals created pandemonium in certain suburbs of the city. That is a rather futile explanation for the introduction of this Bill. It rather implies, as Deputy O'Higgins said, a breakdown in the existing machinery of the State. Surely if blackguards in this city go out to the suburbs for any purpose whatever, and conduct themselves as citizens ought not to conduct themselves, and create pandemonium, as the Minister says, there is machinery to deal with it and it ought to be dealt with. If they have not been dealt with effectively, it reflects discredit on some section of the Department for which the Minister is responsible.

I have always felt, and I have said so [1221] in the House and outside it, that no restrictions which this House, or any other House, or nation can impose will prevent the man who really wants to consume drink to excess and to get drunk from getting that drink and getting drunk.

My experience extends to Canada, United States and various other countries where attempts to prevent excessive drinking on the part of a minority by imposing restrictions on what you might call decent citizens always failed and will fail. To my mind, no case can be made here, or ever was made in any other country, for penalising the great majority of respectable citizens for the actions of a very small minority of what I might term blackguards, such as the Minister said are responsible for creating pandemonium in the suburbs of this city.

Society demanded originally that the sale and consumption of alcoholic liquor, like the sale and consumption of certain other things that might be dangerous if sold without restrictions, should be controlled and placed in the hands of certain traders. It imposed obligations on the traders to whom licences were given. Chemists are licensed to sell poisons, drugs, and other things, but there are licensed sell these things. Traders are licensed to sell alcoholic beverages to the public. They have certain obligations imposed upon them, such as not to sell drink to people who are obviously drunk. The existing law has provided every opportunity for the Departments concerned and their officials to prevent abuses in the sale and consumption of alcoholic drink. To my mind, there is no need for any further legislation. If any legislation were introduced, I should have expected that it would have been by way of modification, rather than the imposition of further restrictions. We are rather putting the cart before the horse; we are dealing with the matter at the wrong end. The Minister in this Bill is trying to put further hindrances in the way of the decent citizens who occasionally want to get a drink. There [1222] are certain restrictions placed upon them already, perhaps desirable, perhaps not. To my mind, any further restrictions are undesirable. If the Minister considers it necessary to deal with the evils that he says exist, he ought to face the matter in another way. If the Minister has not sufficient powers, he ought to ask this House to give him sufficient powers to prevent blackguards from going to the suburbs and creating pandemonium there. The law gives him power to control the drunkard.

It may be impossible for him or for anybody else to prevent a drunkard from getting drink. If he cannot get it otherwise, he will probably make it. But, when a man has got drunk, the law gives the Minister power to deal with him in a certain way, and he should be dealt with. I would put him in some place where he cannot do any harm.

It is another matter when you come to deal with the ordinary respectable citizen. I have no axe to grind in this matter one way or another. As Deputies probably know, I do not indulge in alcoholic beverages. But, I repeat what I said in this House long ago, that I believe those of us who are temperate in our habits should be temperate in our views. When the State has placed the sale of intoxicating drink in decent hands and made every effort to control it properly and has behind it all the laws necessary to prevent abuses occurring, all the laws necessary to control the drunkard, I believe that any further restrictions are unjust to the general population. I for one am definitely opposed to any further restrictions whatever being imposed on the decent majority of the people to prevent them from getting what they desire in the way of drink. Some Deputy made reference to the question of sobriety. The sobriety of this State has advanced considerably during the last 20 or 25 years. I do not think any Deputy can say anything to the contrary. If we are to take notice of the consequences of legislation in other countries, we find that the further any country went in the way of imposing penal laws in regard [1223] to the sale of drink, the more it induced people to obtain drink illicitly. I warn the Minister against any attempt being made here to go too far in the way of penal legislation and denying the ordinary public a reasonable opportunity of getting refreshments when they want them.

Mr. Hughes: Information on James Hughes  Zoom on James Hughes  In my opinion, it would be the duty and responsibility of every Deputy to support any attempt made by the Minister to have a measure enacted for the purpose of effecting a social reform, eliminating abuses and cleaning up disorders, provided such legislation will effect the necessary improvement without introducing any evils. In introducing this measure the Minister has assured the House that there are certain bad houses, houses of ill-repute, in proximity to the city that are a disgrace to society. I think no Deputy can question that. In fact, the fame of these houses has spread all over this country. Deputies who have not any experience of these houses know by repute of the conditions that have obtained there for some years.

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  Still their licences are renewed.

Mr. Hughes: Information on James Hughes  Zoom on James Hughes  I feel that the Minister has made a bad case for this drastic measure striking at a number of well-conducted licensed premises all over the country without having used the existing machinery. If the Minister came here and assured the House that, having made full use of the existing machinery of the law, that machinery had failed to achieve any improvement or any reform and that drastic remedial measures were necessary, then I would be more convinced. But the Minister has not pointed to one single case where the renewal of the licence of such a house has been opposed. Before interfering drastically with the bona fide trade in the country, I feel that the Minister should have used the existing machinery, should have opposed the renewal of these licences, and should have directed the force of the law and the power that he has to oppose the renewal of the licences of [1224] those houses. The licensed trade generally, I am convinced, is not opposed to reform, and the traders in general would certainly approve of any drastic action that would be taken against houses of ill-repute, whose proprietors feel that there is no responsibility whatever on them to look after the interests or the welfare of certain customers, or the condition of customers or people who enter their premises. As far as I understand, a man may be in a state of intoxication on entering these premises and yet be served with drink. Of course, we all agree that that is an abuse that this Parliament cannot stand over, and so far as that type of thing is concerned reform is necessary.

Listening to all the Deputies who have spoken from all sides of the House, I must say that I never experienced a more unanimous agreement on a matter of this sort, and I am convinced that the House generally disapproves of the measure introduced by the Minister. I think it would be very unfair to the public, generally, to do away with the bona fide traffic or the facilities for refreshments for bona fide travellers. In saying that, I am convinced that it is going to encourage evils of a more undesirable kind. It has been suggested that people who travel long distances by car, if they find that they are unable to secure refreshments on the way, are obviously going to bring intoxicating liquor in the car with them, which will amount to bottle parties. In my opinion that is likely to occur, and I think it would be far more desirable that people having to travel long distances should be afforded an opportunity of getting refreshments on the way, of taking a rest, having a drink or two, and then getting into their car and continuing their journey. If they take the drink with them in the car and consume it on the way—possibly getting the driver drunk also—I think that the danger to life and limb on the public thoroughfare will be far greater.

Deputies have cited the case of a man having to travel long distances, driving cattle to a fair early in the morning. I think the Minister cannot [1225] make a case for denying such people an opportunity of getting refreshments early in the morning. I am sure the Minister can visualise the case of a man having to do this sort of work on a bitterly cold winter's morning, having to drive cattle long distances to a fair, and having to stand for hours until the sale was completed. I have no doubt the Minister can appreciate the necessity that arises there for providing an opportunity for such a man to get a drink. The Minister may say that he has provided for that situation by an exemption Order, but there are certain classes of men, such as cattle traders, who have to travel, perhaps, 20 or 30 miles to a fair, and who attend three, four or five fairs weekly, and it might be necessary for such men to get refreshments on the way—not exactly in the town where the fair was occuring, but while travelling to that town.

I have experience of that in my own constituency, in the town of Carlow, where we have a beet factory and where a considerable quantity of beet is delivered by lorry. The factory runs continuously during the 24 hours of the day and deals with enormous quantities of beet, and the drivers of the lorries are operating very late at night and early in the morning. The Minister will appreciate the necessity of providing some refreshment for men who are working hard all day and are driving lorries over long distances late at night in bitterly cold weather and under the worst conditions. Surely, such a man is entitled to refreshments, is entitled to a drink or two and a rest, and then to get on with his work. If he is denied that opportunity, he is going to do what the man travelling by car over long distances will do. He will take liquor with him and consume it in the lorry, and become a far greater danger and menace to life on the road. I think it would be far safer to let that man sit down and take a rest, have a drink, then get into his lorry and go home or get on with his job.

So that, in trying to effect a reform, so far as certain bad houses in the vicinity of populous areas are concerned, the Minister, in fact, in my opinion, is introducing a new danger [1226] and a new evil, and he is denying to the general public what they are entitled to—an opportunity to take refreshments when they are necessary. I have no doubt that Deputy Kennedy is right when he says that in his opinion it will encourage shebeening. I think that that is likely to happen, and I would point out to Deputies that in no country yet have drastic measures of this sort effected the reform that was aimed at, because there is always a reaction to that sort of thing and there is bound to be illicit traffic resulting.

Some Deputies referred to the extraordinary anomaly that exists under the law up to the present time with regard to the preferential treatment for the four boroughs. I often wondered why that anomaly should exist. I have not yet heard anyone make a case as to why the four boroughs should get certain privileges in the way of opportunities for taking refreshments on the Sabbath while the rest of the country is denied those privileges. In fact, it really means that the man who wants to get a drink in a rural district will get on his bicycle and go the required number of miles to get the drink, and it does not prevent the use of intoxicating drink. I think there is something to be said for the suggestion made by a number of Deputies that if licensed traders were permitted throughout the country generally to open for a couple of hours on Sundays it might effect some reform. I do not think there would be any disimprovement, anyway, and it would certainly show that there was no preferential treatment or privilege given to any particular area.

I agree that there are certain desirable improvements in the Bill. I think it is right that the section dealing with the transfer of licences from one premises to another should be included in the Bill. I think it is going to be useful and desirable that a man who improved his premises or built a completely new house, and who, under existing legislation, was unable to transfer the licence from an old and perhaps ramshackle building to the new premises, should be given the opportunity of transferring the licence, [1227] and the Bill provides for such transfer. Again, I am in agreement with the Minister in giving more powers to the district justice in using his discretion with regard to the endorsement of a licence. In certain cases he must endorse the licence unless he is prepared to certify that the offence is of a trivial nature. We can all understand that there may be cases that are not of a trivial nature, but in connection with which there may be extenuating circumstances, and where the justice might feel that in having to endorse the licence it was rather harsh treatment. Nevertheless, up to the present he had no option or discretion in the matter.

I am in agreement with the principle that when you appoint a man to a position of judge or justice he ought to have a good deal of discretion in hearing cases and fixing penalties. For that reason I think this section is an improvement in that it gives the justice full discretion. On the whole, the Bill generally is an improvement except as regards Section 7, and I think that is the contentious section. Of course, the last part of the Bill, which makes provision for a licence for airports, is rather questionable to my mind. It seems extraordinary that a man who has to travel long distances by road at night, perhaps on important business, is denied an opportunity of geting refreshments on the road, while a man who travels a short distance by plane, an hour's flight or less, is entitled to refreshment both before and after travelling. That appears to be a rather peculiar anomaly.

I would join with the other Deputies in appealing to the Minister to reconsider this whole matter of the bona fide trade. I think the drastic action he proposes to take will not effect what he desires. I am afraid it will have the effect of producing new evils and I feel that there are other ways and means of dealing with those bad, undesirable houses that have no sense of responsibility to the general public.

It has been suggested, I think, by Deputy Linehan that possibly you could do away with bona fide trade for [1228] the hours between 12 midnight and 6 a.m. I think there is something to be said for that and possibly that would meet the case the Minister has made in regard to abuses that occur at dances but it certainly would be a great hardship on people in rural districts who have to attend fairs early in the morning to refuse permission to public houses to open early in the morning. I again ask the Minister to reconsider this whole matter.

Mr. Kelly:  I am convinced that the object the Minister had in view in introducing this Bill was the eradication of the social evils arising from the abuse of our licensing laws. Our experience in the country is that the law as it stands is defective and, further, we find that there is not that general respect for the licensing laws that one would expect. I am convinced that the Minister, in introducing this Bill, had that in mind and thought that as a result of legislation along the lines suggested in the Bill, the law would be respected in future. It is quite obvious to people living in rural districts adjacent to villages and towns that a number of public houses keep partially open during prohibited hours. They are carrying on an illegal trade. Possibly, they are forced into that position because of the fact that neighbouring publicans are carrying on an illegal trade. There is competition between publicans during prohibited hours. A number of these publicans are detected, brought to court and fined—some rather heavily, with endorsement of their licence. Others who carry on an equally illegal trade are, for one reason or another, more fortunate in evading the law and escaping detection. From that point of view a radical change is needed.

The general feeling is that a tightening up of bona fide traffic is required but not to the extent suggested in the Bill. Information that I have been able to gather since the introduction of the Bill leads me to believe that the feeling amongst social workers in the country districts is that there would be less law breaking if bona fide traffic were tightened up somewhat. It is quite obvious that certain facilities [1229] should be given to people to enable them to secure some refreshment on Sundays and if we are to make legislation to make such facilities available, we can, I think, do so and at the same time keep in mind certain evils which may need to be dealt with. It is suggested that public houses should remain open for four hours on Sundays in country districts. Our experience is that, when public houses are open on Catholic holidays from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., while there may be a small degree of intoxication noticeable in the evenings, the amount is negligible. We may take that as an indication of what would happen if public houses were to remain open for four hours on Sunday. It is quite obvious that we would have much less intoxication. It is my opinion that people will not have the same inducement to seek intoxicating liquor if public houses are open in their own towns as they would have if they had to travel three or four miles in order to get it.

When a person is forced to travel three miles to a public house on a Sunday in order to get intoxicating liquor, he remains much longer there than he would if he were in a public house in his home town. Certain reasons will suggest themselves to Deputies as to why that is so. We are placing that man in a more dangerous position by forcing him to go three miles from his own home in order to get drink. If he becomes intoxicated he is a danger to himself when returning home in the evening or late at night, oftentimes he is a danger to the public and, in addition, we have the social aspect of the matter. He gives bad example going along the road in an intoxicated condition, apart altogether from the desecration of the Sunday. His bad example is a matter that should weigh with us. It would be much better to keep him in his own home town and give him certain facilities if he wants to get a drink.

Some Deputies have suggested that if the public houses were open on Sundays people might be inclined to drop into them after Mass to have a drink. My opinion for what it is worth is that, instead of doing that, the people would [1230] go home from Mass and have their dinner. Probably they would come out in the evening, knowing that the public houses were open. They would feel quite content to spend an hour or two in them and would not seek to get any more drink that evening. That, perhaps, is the only point that should weigh with us in considering this matter. There is another side to the question, and that is the restriction on the freedom of the assistants employed in them which the opening of public houses on Sunday would impose. Those assistants require amusement and relaxation. They are entitled to it at the end of the week, and have been accustomed to it. It is usual for them to take part in sports meetings, to attend football matches and other forms of amusement on Sunday evenings. This is perhaps a matter that could be got over by agreement between them and their employers. I do not think it is an obstacle which would be found to be insurmountable. One important matter that was referred to was the extension of the Saturday night opening for half an hour or an hour. Deputies know that it is the custom for farmers and their workers to go into the local towns or villages on a Saturday evening.

Usually the workers are paid on a Saturday evening. They go into town to do their business and visit the hairdresser. Afterwards they may seek to get a drink. Due to the present closing hours, that frequently means that they have to get the drink during prohibited hours. It would be much better if that were not so. I am glad that the Minister is endeavouring to do away with the evils arising from dances in villages and towns by doing away with the bona fide traffic provision after 12 o'clock on Saturday night. There is the feeling in the country that this traffic might be permitted up to 12 o'clock on Saturday night, but not later, since it is thought that the evils that arise from it occur after that hour. Amendments to the Bill have been suggested by various Deputies. There seems to be general agreement felt in regard to them in all parts of the House. I believe that, when they are embodied in the Bill, we [1231] will have far greater respect for our licensing laws, and that the Guards will have far greater support from the public than they have at present in enforcing those laws.

Mr. Hickey: Information on James Hickey  Zoom on James Hickey  Listening to some Deputies one would think that this Bill was going to remove all our social ills. I do not think that it will do that. I remember when the public houses used to open at 7 o'clock in the morning and not close until 11 o'clock at night. Later a change was made, so that they could not open until 9 a.m. in the cities. Objection was raised to that change. In my opinion, it was a desirable one, and was even appreciated by those who at one time were opposed to it. Saturday night closing was changed from 11 o'clock to 10 o'clock, and later to 9.30 p.m. I am surprised that Deputies should suggest that the public houses should remain open until 12 o'clock. I am also opposed to two openings on Sundays. In doing so, I am thinking of what the reactions of that would be on our city and town life. I would ask Deputies to have a little more thought and consideration for the people's home life.

We all know well that when the public houses remained open until 10 and 11 o'clock at night there were usually many cases in the police courts in the morning. When the public houses opened at 7 o'clock in the morning, you had men waiting to go into them at that hour, suffering, as some would say, either from a sore head or a sick stomach. The fact that men went into public houses at that hour of the morning was, I think, due more to habit than anything else.

I agree with Deputy Norton that it should be possible for members of the different Parties to sit down and discuss the changes that are necessary in our licensing laws. I have seen men who had travelled 20 miles from Cork to Mallow able to get all the drink they required there, while men living two and a half or three miles outside that town could not get a drink. Something should be done to meet that kind of situation. There is also need to make provision for big gatherings of people [1232] who travel distances to attend football matches and other sporting fixtures. Would it not be quite easy to make provision in our licensing laws so that on occasions of that kind people would be able to get refreshments? I have seen thousands of men come to Cork from Tipperary and other centres who could not get a drink until 2 o'clock in the afternoon, although they had arrived in the city at 12.30. By the time the match was over there was a scramble to get into the public houses. Some discretion should be given to our district justices to grant an extension of opening hours to meet situations of that sort.

So far as city life is concerned, the existing law permits a man to go into a public house on Sunday from 2 o'clock to 5 o'clock. It is now proposed to open the public houses from 1 o'clock to 2 o'clock and 5 o'clock to 7 o'clock. There must be some regard for the woman of the house and the family on the one day of the week on which the husband is able to give them any kind of entertainment or social life. There is the temptation there of sending the man of the house to the public house on Sunday for the hours I have specified. I would put clubs on the same footing as public houses. I do not believe in a man leaving a public house and going across to a club. These are things that a Committee of the House could more effectively deal with. It would be much better to deal with them in Committee rather than have individual views expressed here.

Another objection I have is because hotels and other places can supply drink on St. Patrick's Day. I do not think the Minister is doing this in any deliberate fashion, but it will mean that the mass of the people who cannot afford to go to hotels will see those who can afford it getting all the drink they require, while they will not be permitted to go into a public house. I suggest that all places should be prevented from selling drink on St. Patrick's Day if the public houses are not permitted to do it. I have heard about the need for drink at race meetings. At a place not very far from Cork City there was a great commotion about drink not being allowed [1233] there at a race meeting on St. Patrick's Day. There are some people listening to me who know where that place is. I considered it a treat to see thousands of people attending that race meeting and there was not a glass of beer sold. There is another place where a race meeting is held on Easter Monday and, of course, drink galore is sold there on that day. When you compare the two places, I should like to know what Deputy would justify the sale of drink at such a function. I submit that selling refreshments in public houses and catering for travellers are not such important factors as we are led to believe. I certainly object to drink being sold to people in hotels and restaurants on St. Patrick's Day when the ordinary man in the street cannot get a pint.

If we are going to be loyal to St. Patrick, let us close all places of drinking on that day. This sort of thing causes unrest among certain sections of the community. The man who can afford it can go to a hotel and get all the drink he wants, but the poor man cannot get his drink and, if he succeeds in getting one illegally, he may be fined severely. I am not saying all this because I am not interested in drink and do not take it myself. I am saying it because I have observed the results of public houses being opened at unreasonable hours.

There is a danger in this Bill that the mid-day closing period may be relaxed. I regarded that as one of the finest things in our legislation—that break between 2.30 and 3.30. There were many people delighted to see that regulation in operation. The experience in the country towns or in the cities was that men who went into a public house at one o'clock on Saturday, when their day's work was finished, did not leave until closing time that night. The break in the middle of the day put an end to all that. We must consider the home, and I am not at all agreeable that the drinking hours should be extended. I object to the two periods of opening on Sunday. I have knowledge of decent working men, and the proposal in the Bill would have a very injurious effect on them and on their [1234] families. I think the present hours of opening on Sunday are quite reasonable. If it is a question of facilitating certain areas, a discretion could be given to the district justice to relax the hours. That has already been done, with satisfaction to all concerned. I feel it would be much better to have a committee representing all Parties considering this Bill, and I believe they would be able to decide what is best for the country.

Mr. McGilligan: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  I should like to hear even the briefest statement from the Minister in relation to the section dealing with aerodromes. One of the proposals in the Bill suggests that in future the Minister is going to be the licensing authority; he is going to grant and renew licences. There must be some explanation of why that is considered necessary. I should like to have that explanation. If the Minister is going to be established as the licensing authority in respect of certain types of licences, where are we going to stop? Now that we are to begin with aerodromes, where is this likely to stop? While the Bill on the whole states its views against bona fide traffic, there is a new aspect opened in relation to licensing of aerodromes, and there is something inconsistent in that.

There are certain clauses which deal with special cases. These can be discussed on their merits on the Committee Stage. I am not opposed to legislation relating to special cases. I rather welcome the appearance of legislation dealing with special cases. I have on many occasions spoken about the necessity of having taxation of a heavy type imposed on people who have robbed the country, people such as the bacon curers and the millers, and I was told that it would be wrong to introduce special legislation of that type. We are now going to introduce a special type of legislation here. I submit that if special legislation were introduced to deal with people who have been held up to odium and contempt as profiteers, that special legislation would benefit the community.

There is one point about the change [1235] in the opening hours on Sunday. There is disagreement among those concerned, and I gather the Minister is going to alter the Bill and that there will be an opening of two hours on either side. As regards the wine retailers' licences, there may be repercussions which will have to be carefully guarded against if it is intended to preserve what has been called the vested interests of those already in the licensed trade. In the Bill there is a clause which accepts the view that the District Courts are capable of taking into account extenuating circumstances. It was always regarded as an experiment and it was not meant as a slur on the District Court when it was thought better to remove the consideration which has occupied greater time, that of extenuating circumstances, to the higher court. We are now going back to the lower court for extenuating circumstances as well as trivialities. I wonder whether the Minister would not recast the whole law in connection with these offences. The onus is distinctly on the person who is accused of having committed an offence. He used to have to prove trivialities and, if he could not prove that, his licence was endorsed, unless he could establish extenuating circumstances. I do not see why, when we have come this long way, we could not go a little further and have breaches of the licensing law governed in this way, namely, that the onus rests on the person who alleges that the offence has been committed. I think the Minister will agree that the onus is still on the publican.

There is no doubt that overshadowing all these small points the big item in this Bill is the clause dealing with the bona fide traffic. We have a variety of views in that connection. I think one thing can be said. If those who are vocal in this House are to be taken as being in any way representative of the numerical strength of the views explained to the House, the clause has not the slightest chance of getting through the House as it stands, unless there is to be a Party vote. Deputy O'Reilly talked about people slinking down alley ways to get drink. [1236] People will be slinking down certain Party alley ways to support the Minister in that event; but, if he leaves this to a free vote, the clause has not a chance of getting through as it stands.

It can be discussed from many angles. Deputy Hickey has given a point of view which one must respect, coming from him with his well-known attitude to many social matters in the House. I would say to him that talking about the disruption of family life on the question of whether public houses are to be opened for a limited period on Sunday, or whether the bona fide traffic is to be allowed, limited or even as it is at present, is looking to the exceptional and thinking of it rather as a rule. I should say that the vast majority of married citizens do not stir out of their houses for drink, either on Sunday or any other day. I am not speaking of those who can afford to keep drink in the house, but of the vast majority who cannot afford to and do not keep drink in the house. They do not go out on Sunday. We are dealing with a very small section of the community, and we are dealing, in fact, with a much smaller section when we go on to consider the abuse of what has been given.

We have got into a habit of mind in this country, to which Deputy Fitzgerald-Kenney adverted, which you will not find elsewhere in the world. You did find it a little in America and they tried an experiment there, which was a ghastly failure. It is a habit of mind which looks on drink—not drunkenness, but drinking—as an evil, of necessity. That is wrong. One can get something akin to Scriptural authority in the phrase that “sober drinking is health to both soul and body.” One can get something of the same type of castigation addressed to the purist and purifier when he was asked: “Do you think that because you are virtuous, there shall not be any more cakes or ale?” or the view of the old toper that a man cannot get drunk by 8 o'clock or 10 o'clock—whatever is the closing hour—because he is not trying, and we have also the view point of Deputy Hickey.

[1237] We have come a long distance from the time when, if we look back to the beginning of the inn system, drinking was associated with religion and it was recognised that there had to be an intimate association between religion and the legitimate pleasures of those who were religious. I suppose that if one searched into the origins of most of the taverns abroad, one would find that they were associated with the old chapel houses or old monastic establishments, when the monks, at a time when they did have considerable sway in the community, decided that travelling was something which needed an aid, and set up their houses for the provision of liquor to those who entered on the dangerous experiment of travelling in those days. They had to remove what afterwards grew into the inns from the neighbourhood of the cloisters, because so many people frequented them. They did remove them and let them grow into the inn system.

I suppose it is the sixth or seventh time that a Parliament in this country, since its establishment as a national institution, has considered intoxicating liquor, and it has always been considered on the lines of its being a vice. If it is to be considered as a vice, I wonder what are the principles along which we are going? I take as my guide in this matter a statement contained in a report presented in 1925 in connection with the whole matter of intoxicating liquor. In that report the commission set out the principles upon which they went, and I think there is one part of their report which is quite appropriate to this discussion. They say:—

“The right to interfere with the drunkard is the right to interfere with a public nuisance, but this right does not entitle the law to prohibit or unduly restrict the satisfaction of a natural and legitimate appetite by reasonable and moderate men who do not abuse their rights. The ideal to be aimed at seems to us to be a system of law which will secure good order and remove the abuses connected with the consumption of an article the use of which may be voluntarily abandoned but cannot be forcibly suppressed.”

[1238] I think that is a good principle. You have to recognise that this is an article in ordinary use and ordinarily used properly, and to consider, on the other hand, that there are some abuses connected with it and that from time to time we have tried by various devices of a legislative type to clear up the abuses.

It is noteworthy in connection with some things said in the House that the Intoxicating Liquor Committee of 1925 reported that one of the things helping to mitigate drunkenness in this country was the growth of the reasonable and innocent pleasures of dancing and the picture houses. Nowadays, of course, if a commission were impressed by the sentiments of some people who write to the newspapers, they would feel that these are not legitimate alternatives to drinking. They are probably something worse than the old drinking habits. There are certainly any number of people in the country who have not merely sharpened their pencils but have written a report on the fall of Éire, so to speak, brought about by addiction to dancing and its evils, and the picture houses and their evils. I should say that drinking occupies only third place in the minds of these reformers.

The Minister has based this on the abuses. If there is the abuse referred to in the report, you can only impose interfering legislation against a natural pleasure if you have public support. Let us see whether public support ought to be got for this abolition of the bona fide traffic and then let us see how far we can get it. This is the biggest step in one piece of legislation ever taken in the country. Leaving out Sunday as a different matter entirely, the situation at the moment is that a man can get a drink at any hour of the day or night on a week-day, if he goes three or five miles, according to whatever his previous night's address was. On travelling three or five miles at this moment, you can get a drink at any place of a licensed type at any hour during a week-day. It is proposed hereafter that that right shall be entirely taken away and that the right [1239] to get a drink will be confined to the ordinary trading hours. I suggest that that is an enormous stride to take and I think we have not got any evidence upon which the House should be forced to take it.

I should like to ask the Minister, when he talks about abuse, if he could tell me the number of licensed houses in the whole of the country. So far as on-licences of the publican type are concerned, when this report was drafted, the number was something over 12,000. How many are there now and what percentage are afflicted with this abuse which is talked about? I do not think it is big, and, if it is not, the suggestion to wipe out the bona fide traffic is to be thrown down at once. Even if it is big, I want to find out what other remedial measures have been tried. How many cases were taken into the courts, and how many endorsements of licences were achieved in this connection? If the Minister is going to take refuge in any excuse that people are not doing their duty, there is one set of people who might be alleged not to be doing their duty who are under his control. In how many cases were disciplinary measures taken in connection with action which the police refrained from taking in cases where there were glaring abuses? It is only when we get answers to these questions and find out what percentage of the houses this touches, and whether there has been a real attempt made to deal with it by the ordinary legal means, the means to the hand of the Minister, that we can understand what are the abuses and how far the other means for attacking them have failed.

I suggest that the abuses are not many, and do not touch many places, and, just as applies to Deputy Hickey's remarks about family life, I think we are paying far too much attention to the person who is abusing. We are certainly overlooking a lot of people who are not abusing something which has always been felt in this country to be a right and to be something approaching a necessity. We have the [1240] tale of the people who travel to fairs. They have been accustomed to start at early hours of the morning and travelling under difficult and hard conditions of weather they come to places and feel upon themselves the need of a drink. Up to date, they could get it. From this on they will not be able to get it. Of course it can be said that some of these people will do without it. So they will. But the people who will do without it are not the people who are creating the abuse at present. The people who are creating the abuse, if there is any abuse at all outside the outskirts of Dublin—and if there is any real abuse in that way I have failed to hear of it—those who are operating somewhere around Dublin—because that is, I understand, where the abuse is supposed mainly to be located—are they to be stopped by simply closing down the bona fide traffic? This report says that they asked over and over again temperance people who came before them and who were urging restrictive legislation had they adverted to the experience of other countries where this sort of interfering legislation was attempted. They say that complete closing on Sundays does not seem to have produced any marked results in the way of diminishing intemperance on that day. They say that the people who wanted to get the drink, who would be ordinarily abusing the privilege, achieved their aim by the simple method of storing the liquor they wanted. They had quite a good point on that. They say here:—

“We were informed that the main reason is that spirits are stored. We felt that this question of the purchase in advance and storage of liquor did not receive proper attention from the temperance societies. Were the bona fide traffic abolished, tourists or travellers would, in many cases, take liquor with them and in such cases, for convenience of storage, spirits would undoubtedly be chosen as the most concentrated form of intoxicating liquor. Where a man might, if allowed to choose his drink at his discretion, take beer, stout or wine, he certainly would not carry with him any of these drinks. It is common knowledge that spirits [1241] form a most harmful variety of drink and we cannot believe that any legislation which would encourage their drinking could be beneficial.”

Let us take the people—I do not think they are worth the attention paid to them; they are more blatant than they are really an effect for evil in this country—who are alleged after dances, or even possibly without going near a dance, to get out to some of these houses in the neighbourhood of Dublin and indulge in drinking during the bona fide hours. Does anybody believe that these people will be stopped from having drink when this Bill is passed? Does not everybody know well that the situation will be that there will be bottle parties of a most shameful type carried on by people with their pockets already loaded up with spirits; that they will go to the house of whichever party will take them in and drink themselves out? When the motor traffic comes back we know what will happen. They will go out along the roads. We had an example here years ago when there was one dancing place in this city which had not got a licence, and it was notorious that there was more drunkenness there than there was in places which could supply drink during a dance. What happened was that people went out during the licensing hours and got their spirits. When they came back they could not get diluted spirits to drink because they did not bring any soda water, and the “Baby Powers” went to their heads because it was raw whiskey they were drinking.

The commission referred to the American experiment which had to be abandoned eventually. It was abandoned because it was found that it resulted in what this commission reported might possibly arise in connection with the bona fide traffic here. It drove quite a number of people to drinking raw spirits where previously they were content with something in the way of light beer or wine. I suggest that we should not bemuse ourselves in regard to this. It is too easy just to think of administrative control. No doubt it would be much easier for the police force to have the bona fide traffic stopped. I suggest that unless a good case can be made on figures, [1242] there is no reason at this stage for taking this step because of administrative convenience.

I suggest that the question ought to be examined a great deal further. We should not take the view that any drinking during bona fide hours is done by people who go a distance for their drink. There are any number of people who have to go a distance by reason of business or because they are in some sort of employment which necessitates it, and they take their drink en route or when they get to their destination. Before the Minister tries to force this on an unwilling House—and the House has definitely shown its unwillingness to accept this —he should give some statistics which would help us to educate our own opinions in the matter and to inform public opinion, because, as the report says, if you try to force legislation of this type against public opinion, or without the aid of public opinion, you will fail, and you will only do that when you have brought another section of the law into contempt. I suggest that no case has been made for the abolition of this.

Mr. Mullen: Information on Thomas Mullen  Zoom on Thomas Mullen  I think it is evident from the speeches we have heard from practically every side of the House that there is, first, an appreciation that a Bill of this kind is necessary and, secondly, that it showed courage on the part of the Government and the Minister to introduce this type of Bill. I know so much about this question from every angle that it is very hard for me to decide immediately from which angle to approach it. But I do say that very few Bills have gone through this House in regard to which I have seen such a desire to have unanimity, but a failure to back up that unanimity of feeling with actual statements in the House. It is a very short step from a good Bill to a comparatively bad Bill in dealing with so an important question as this. The dividing line between the two is very small.

There are people in the country whose interests are involved in this Bill in the personal and economic sense. There is behind that an involvement [1243] of the Irish character. While we should do everything that we possibly can to ensure that the best Bill that can be got through will be put through this Parliament, we must not forget that the people we must consider primarily are the community as a whole. Have we been considering these people here in the speeches made this evening? In my opinion we have not faced up to the issue. The licensing laws as we know them, even if they were not primarily enacted in order to be antagonistic to the Irish character and to be unsuitable to the Irish nation, at least have achieved that purpose. The Irish people at the present time—this has been mentioned by speakers from the other Benches, from Labour Benches and Fine Gael benches—want reasonable laws for reasonable people, and reasonable drinking facilities at reasonable hours. That situation has not been explored by the speakers to whom I have listened. When, on a Sunday, for instance, does the average man want to have a drink? Definitely, not between the hours of 2 and 5. Deputy Hickey spoke about these hours, and it is my experience that on a Sunday morning, after Mass, without any rush from the church to the “pub”, the average man who has done his work during the week, if he feels like taking intoxicating liquor, wants to have his drink before his dinner, and at that particular time his wife wants him out of the house.

I move the adjournment of the Debate.

Debate adjourned.


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