Updated: 09/11/17 : 07:11:08
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Booze prices to soar under new legislation

Sligo off-licences and supermarkets are to be hit with major price increases under the new minimum pricing amendments in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill which experienced intense debate in the Seanad (Senate) yesterday.

The new pricing structure will see customer prices soar and in some cases double and with cans of beer under €1 being banned. Cheap wine will also be prohibited, with a standard bottle of 12.5pc wine soon set to cost a minimum of €7.50.

Publicans will be happy at the new pricing initiative as they have, over recent years, seen a dramatic drop in trade as more people turned to having a tipple at home in an effort to save money.

Some Sligo publicans have already cashed in on the cheap prices by buying in multi-packs of Bulmer's cider from supermarkets and despite notices of  'Not To Be Sold Separately' and each can displaying an imprinted €2 price tag are selling them over the bar at prices ranging from €4.60 to €4.90.

However after minimum pricing is introduced the price of some cut-price cans of beer and cider will rise in line with the Government's thinking to curb harmful drinking especially among young people but strangely naggins of vodka, which are popular among younger drinkers, will not change in price.

Lobbying

Following strong lobbying by the drinks industry and smaller shops the Government has dropped plans to impose a booze curtain - similar to current cigarette sales - in smaller outlets and opted instead for limited shelving, which will still allow some alcohol to be displayed.

Health Minister Simon Harris said yesterday,  "Price matters. If it goes up, harm goes down."

He added: "We hear that Irish people drink moderately, but the 2017 Healthy Ireland Survey found that nearly four out of 10 of us binge drink regularly. The more we drink, the higher our risk of developing life-changing illnesses such as alcoholic liver diseases or alcohol related cancers. We can no longer ignore the evidence or the risks."

The new regime will not affect the "price of the pint" in pubs, but instead aims to stamp out the selling of cheap alcohol in shops - which is contributing to excessive drinking, he added.

Exodus

However, some senators claimed it would have a detrimental effect on shops near the Border and lead to an exodus of shoppers.

Sligo is no stranger to witnessing hoards of shoppers heading over the border to Enniskillen to stock up on Christmas booze with some off-licences there selling three bottles of wine for as little as £10 (€11.30)


Many senators are also warning it will lead to onerous costs of up to €20,000 for many smaller shopkeepers who will have to rearrange outlets to structurally separate alcohol from other stock.

Patricia Callan, Director of Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland in a statement to Sligo Today said, “A balanced approach to the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill is required. The drinks industry fully supports measures to target alcohol misuse and underage drinking, but it is critically important that these measures are targeted, proportionate and proven to work.

"The Department of Health is trying to influence Senators with misleading information and spin. “The drinks industry has continued to highlight that certain measures in the Alcohol Bill are not targeted or evidence-based. This means that they are unlikely to be effective in reducing alcohol misuse and will have unintended negative consequences on jobs and businesses across the country. These very real concerns must be considered and addressed.” 

Alcohol Action Ireland
accused the minister of moving a "considerable distance" from the original proposals in order to "accommodate the private interests of a small group of business owners".

A spokesman deplored this "derogation of responsibility".


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