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Alcohol Sales Plan ‘not compatible for families living in town centres’

Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín has spoken out against the announcement of the Alcohol Sales Plan which will see pubs able to serve until 12.30am every night.

The new proposals, announced this week by Justice Minister Helen McEntee, will also allow alcohol to be sold from 10.30am on Sundays in supermarkets and off licenses, while also paving the way for nightclubs to stay open until 6am.

Speaking on Wednesday, the Meath TD criticised the proposals, a memo of which was brought before cabinet this week, stating that the law is “not compatible with families living in town centres” in Ireland.

Deputy Tóibín said: “As a person who grew up living next door to a pub and 5 doors away from a nightclub, I know that this law is not compatible for families living in town centres. We are being told that repopulating town centres with families is one of the solutions to the housing crisis.

Peadar Tóibín TD (C: Gript)

 

“Yet, one of the reasons families are leaving town centres is the threat of anti-social behaviour. In many places extending licensing laws and encouraging people back into towns are mutually exclusive objectives”. 

He continued to state that the focus has been on O’Connell street as of late, however, many main streets in Irish towns are confronted with similar problems.

“A lot of attention has been placed on O’Connell Street in recent times but many main streets in many towns face similar crime challenges. 

“Loud music, windows being smashed, fights, drugs, puke on the streets, chipper litter strewn all over the streets are already the experience of communities. These laws may well lead to these problems being made worse. I’m not saying that there is not room for manoeuvre, extensions or change, but if it’s to happen it must be done in a way that means families with young children can live safely in houses on the streets in the centre of our towns. In a housing crisis that is the priority”.   

Mr Tóibín also highlighted a “spiralling crime crisis” in Ireland, adding that, in his view, Minister McEntee’s priorities should be firmly focused on the current increase in attempts and threats to murder, assaults, harassment, and other offences which are on the rise in Ireland, which have not been met with sufficient Garda Recruitment.

“The Minister of Justice is overseeing a spiralling crime crisis. Sexual Crime alone has risen by 75% since Fine Gael was elected in 2011,” he continued.

“The number of rapes reported has increased by 100%. Attempts and threats to murder, assaults, harassment, and related offences have also increased by 20%.  Successive Fine Gael Governments have also hollowed out the Guards as an effective force to deal with this crisis. This year alone, the Government has met 3% of its Garda Recruitment targets so far. 

“Despite the government setting a target of 800, only 24 new Gardaí have been recruited. The mind boggles are where this Minister’s priorities are”. 

Under current laws, Irish supermarkets cannot sell alcohol until 12:30pm on Sundays, but such businesses will now be able to sell alcohol from 10:30am on Sundays under reforms to licence hours.

This will also be brought in-line with the remainder of the week, with alcohol sales to be allowed from 10.30am through to 10pm from Monday to Sunday. Minister McEntee is currently bringing the proposal for the new legislation to Cabinet, which will herald in the significant changes. Meanwhile, pubs will be allowed to serve until 12.30am every night during the week under the new form of licensing laws. 

Under existing licensing laws in Ireland, pubs have to stop serving at 11.30pm between Monday and Thursday, with the extension of 12.30am on Friday and Saturday, while final orders are at 11pm on a Sunday.

Opening hours on Christmas day will remain the same, with all pubs and nightclubs required to close.

Publicans will continue to be permitted to serve customers on Good Friday following the ban on pub closures several years ago.

The landmark new legislation will also open the door for nightclubs to be allowed to remain open until 6am, with last orders allowed to be taken up until 5am.

While proponents of the changes say the reforms will ‘modernise’ what they have described as ‘antiquated’ licensing laws in Ireland, the proposals have been met with sharp criticism from some publicans.

Speaking to The Kerryman, rural publicans said they simply cannot afford to stay open later. An increase in day-to-day running costs, coupled with staffing issues, as well as a decrease in customers owing to the cost of living crisis, means that the new legislation, will not be sufficient to revive nighttime culture.

Cllr Niall O’Callaghan, who runs the Fáilte in Killarney, told the Kerry newspaper, as reported in the Irish Independent, that the new laws make “no sense” given the current socioeconomic challenges across the board.

“There is no spending power on the street and the longer we open the bigger expense it is on the business,” he said.

“It makes no sense at all, it sounds like it is good for the night-time economy but we will still be closing the doors at 10pm,” he added.

He told the Kerryman that his customers no longer stay out late at night, and that changes to licensing laws won’t change this.

Killorglin publican Ger Counihan who runs Bunkers echoed his views, telling the newspaper that he feels the proposals “are an absolute joke”.

“There is obviously a powerful lobby and it’s not the ordinary publican,” he said.

“Every hour we stay open is costing a fortune and good luck getting staff,” he said, adding that the legislation could devalue pub licences and put rural pubs under increased pressure.

Minister McEntee said this week that there will be further consultation ahead of presenting a full Bill to the Oireachtas next year – adding that she also plans to have this Bill enacted next year.

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