Call for change to off-license hours and alcohol purchase limits during Level 3 2 weeks ago

Call for change to off-license hours and alcohol purchase limits during Level 3

"We cannot pretend that house parties aren't going on when they clearly are."

Minister of State Patrick O'Donovan has called for limits on alcohol purchases and a change to off-license hours.

The junior minister is asking the government to consider enforcing new rules on the amount of alcohol that can be purchased in stores in one go, and to review the hours that off-licenses can operate amid Level 3 restrictions.

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Claire Byrne, Minister Donovan said he brought up the issue at Tuesday's Fine Gael Parliamentary Party.

"I'm not talking about the person going into Centra for a bottle of wine for the evening," he said. "When you see slabs of cans being taken home, you know that they are not being taken home for an after-dinner aperitif.

"We cannot pretend that house parties aren't going on when they clearly are. We are asking people to exercise common sense here."

Minister Donovan argued that a new drinking culture has developed since Level 3 restrictions were first introduced in Dublin three weeks ago.

"You see people with nothing but alcohol in their shopping trolleys," he said. "A culture has developed in recent weeks that this is okay. It is not okay."

"Many pubs and hotels have followed guidelines to the letter, and have not been responsible for the spread of the virus (...) We know that uncontrolled consumption of alcohol is a huge part of the problem."

Minister Donovan added that Tanaiste Leo Varadkar did not respond to his suggestion.

This comes after Level 3 restrictions were introduced for the entire country earlier this week. These guidelines have banned all indoor seating in restaurants and bars, as well as indoor gatherings of more than six people.

The National Off-Licence Association has warned against reduced off-license hours, stating that this will affect small businesses.

"With new restrictions now on family/social gatherings, we are seeing sales volumes gradually decline for these kinds of purchases too," they said.

"The majority of licences in the off-trade are held by supermarkets, petrol stations and convenience stores; small, independent off-licences that NOffLA represents make up only one-third of the overall sector, approximately."

The group, however, suggested that the government introduce Minimum Unit Pricing to curb bulk purchasing of cheap drink.

"We agree that there ought to be more control over the sale and in particular the pricing of alcohol so that we can cut-out dangerous or irresponsible consumption," they said.

"MUP has been shown in Scotland to reduce consumption of ultra-cheap alcohol and we are therefore calling for its immediate commencement."

432 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in Ireland yesterday, and no additional deaths.