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Ó Snodaigh calls for major reform of alcohol licensing laws

26 January, 2008


Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has made a submission to the Government Alcohol Advisory Group in which he has called for the hours of sale of alcohol to be staggered in line with European models to help prevent drink-related disorder.

Deputy Ó Snodaigh is also advocating the establishment of Local Licensing Fora to overlook the licensing controls process. These Fora would include elected representatives, statutory authorities, licensed trade representatives, community representatives and other stakeholders such as those involved in addiction services.

Speaking today Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "Sinn Féin supports the involvement of local authorities and local communities in the liquor licensing control process. We advocate a significant role for the community in the determination of licensing restrictions in their own local area. To this end we believe, Local Licensing Fora should be introduced including elected representatives, statutory authorities, licensed trade representatives, community representatives, and other stakeholders such as those involved in addiction services. These fora should be empowered to determine matters such as the future number, type and hours of sale of licensed premises in their area in the interests of public safety and public health.

"Since early 2005 Sinn Féin has also called for the liberalisation of licensing laws towards European models involving flexible opening and closing times to prevent drink-related disorder. Staggered closing times, Garda patrols in sufficient numbers, in the right place at the right time, additional taxi ranks and first aid units like the 'SOS Bus' in Belfast would all enhance the safety of the public at the weekend. These practical measures would help to ensure that everyone gets home safely after a night out.

"In addition, an independent regulator for the drinks industry should be introduced with powers of enforcement, the ability to review complaints about manufacture, marketing and sales practices, and the ability to withdraw products that do not comply with set criteria.

"License holders who offend, in particular in relation to excessive and under-age alcohol consumption, should face license suspension, withdrawal or other sanctions greater than potential profits to be made, as appropriate. Adequate powers to temporarily close licensed premises during the most profitable periods should be available.

"A high rate of detection will be essential to ensuring the effectiveness of sanctions therefore a robust and well resourced inspection regime must be introduced." ENDS

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