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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 May, 2003, 21:46 GMT 22:46 UK
Ireland tough on alcohol culture
A pint of Guinness being purchased in an Irish pub
Alcohol abuse costs Ireland billions of euro per year
The Irish Government has unveiled measures aimed at tackling the country's drinking culture.

The draft proposals to reform liquor licensing laws and to regulate the marketing of alcohol towards young people were given to the Irish parliament on Tuesday.

There have been increasing concerns about the growth of the drinking culture in Ireland which is said to have led to a rise in crime and street fights.

Irish President Mary McAleese recently called her fellow countrymen's attitude to drink "unhealthy" and "sinister".

Advertisements for alcohol currently face few restrictions and are highly visible around the country.

ALCOHOL ABUSE MEASURES
Proof of age in pubs for under-21s
Tougher penalties for pubs who sell to drunken people
Plain clothed police to enforce regulations
Bringing closing time back to 2330 hours on Thursday nights
Banning entertainment after last orders

The Intoxicating Liquor Bill proposals were announced by Justice Minister Michael McDowell in the Dail.

The proposals call for every person under the age of 21 to be required to carry a proof of age document on licensed premises, while all under-15s will be banned from bars after 2000 hours.

Publicans could also face tougher penalties over the sale and supply of alcohol to drunken people, including a wider use of temporary closure orders.

These orders have only been allowed to be used in connection with underage drinking up to now.

The police would also be allowed to use officers in civilian clothes to enforce the licensing laws.

Mr McDowell later told reporters that covert operations were not possible at the moment.

"It is difficult for officers to see who is drinking alcopops and who is drinking mineral water."

Mr McDowell said he expected most political parties to support the bill, which he believed would be put in place before the summer recess.

Advertisements

Meanwhile, Health Minister Micheal Martin told the Dail he would introduce legislation on the placing of advertisements for alcoholic drinks.

He said the proposals were in conjunction with the Justice Minister's bill.

Companies would have to ensure that alcohol advertising does not appeal to children or adolescents.

Under the proposals, the drinks industry would no longer be allowed to sponsor young people's leisure activities, and an advertising watershed is to be brought in on television and in cinemas.

"It is essential that we address the high exposure to the recurring positive messages about alcohol which over time helps to create or reinforce the attitudes and beliefs, particularly of young people," said Mr Martin.

"Presently alcohol advertisments infringe the Irish alcohol advertising codes in a number of ways including the linking of alcohol use with social or sexual success."

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said last week that alcohol abuse was costing the country more than 2bn euro a year in lost productivity and other costs.

Within the European Union, Ireland is now only second to Luxembourg in consumption of alcohol per head, he said.

The restrictions come close on the heels of an announced smoking ban to be imposed in pubs and restaurants from next year.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's James Helm
"Alcohol consumption has risen faster than anywhere else in recent years"



SEE ALSO:
Ireland thinks again on drink
20 Feb 03  |  Europe
Smoking extinguished in Irish pubs
30 Jan 03  |  Northern Ireland


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