Tuesday, 14 June 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
578. Mr. O’Shea asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if he has satisfied himself that in regard to the curbing of binge drinking that greater control of the off-licence sector is both vital and urgent; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19033/05]
Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): A consultation process for my proposals for a Bill to streamline and modernise our liquor licensing laws has recently concluded. I will take account of the views of organisations and individuals who responded to my request for submissions in the context of the drafting of the Bill to repeal the Liquor Licensing Acts 1833 to 2004 and replace them with updated provisions more suited to modern conditions.
In bringing forward proposals to reform the licensing laws, I am conscious of public concerns on alcohol related harm in our society. For this reason, my proposals contain both safeguards and increased penalties that are intended to combat such harm. These include extending the jurisdiction of the courts to all retail licences and giving specified notice parties and the public the right to object to the grant of a licence; streamlining the system for renewing licences and clarifying the right of members of the public to object to renewal on stated grounds; strengthening provisions designed to combat sales to under age persons by, for example, requiring all off-licences to have written policies and control procedures; creating a new offence of being in possession of a forged Garda age card; and increasing the levels of penalties and sanctions, including a proposal that all temporary closure orders should involve closure for a minimum of two days.
The new licensing arrangements will also allow the Garda to object to applications for new retail licences on the grounds of an undue risk of public nuisance or a threat to public order or safety. My proposals also contain provisions for dealing with drunkenness and disorderly conduct on licensed premises, as well as combating the sale and supply of alcohol to, and consumption of alcohol by, under age persons. The implementation of these licensing provisions will continue to be complemented and supported by public order legislation. The Garda already has extensive powers under the Public Order Acts of 1994 and 2003 to deal with incidents of intoxication or disorderly conduct in public places. In particular, the 2003 Act makes provision for the courts to make both exclusion and closure orders arising from such incidents.
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