The Irish Community Action on Alcohol Network and Alcohol Forum Ireland have today welcomed the Joint Committee on Justice Report on Pre-Legislative Scrutiny of the General Scheme of the Sale of Alcohol Bill 2022.
While the report is expansive, running to 195 pages, ICAAN have welcomed some of the key recommendations therein.
Speaking earlier today, Paula Leonard said ‘Today we welcome the fact that the Committee have made recommendations on issues around which we been lobbying for over a number of years. Two recommendations in particular that focus on protecting the rights, health and wellbeing of children and young people are welcome. Firstly that the committee ‘recommends that the provisions around alcohol delivery services be strengthened within the General Scheme and that there be age verification at the point of sale and point of delivery of alcohol delivery services’ and also that ‘The Committee recommends that a child protection element be incorporated into this legislation to ensure that children are sufficiently protected from exposure to alcohol-related harms’
However, some of our biggest concerns regarding the proposed significant extension of hours in both bars and night clubs remain and we will continue to campaign to protect public health and well-being.
For the past three years, our ICAAN campaign ‘Deliver Change on Drink Deliveries’ has sought reform and updating of the licensing code to allow for greater regulation of drink delivery services. In communities right across Ireland young people have been using these services as a way of accessing alcohol underage. The recommendation in today’s report that the legislation be strengthened around alcohol delivery services is very welcome. It is so important that when we appeared before the Justice committee, the members listened and the voices of communities have been heard on this. Our most recent REDC poll in December of last year 63% of people are concerned that unregulated online/over the phone sale of alcohol is facilitating underage drinking’ (up from 54% in our previous REDC poll in 2020). The recommendation that there will need to be age verification at both the point of sale and the point of delivery will go some way to ensuring that young people are not able to use this method of purchasing alcohol.
Our other core concern relating to the General Scheme of the Sale of Alcohol Bill was the negative impacts that the proposed legislation will have on children, particularly given that current levels of alcohol’s harm to children in Ireland. About 15.5% of young people in Ireland are drinking at 13 years. This increases to 90% by the time they reach 17/18 years. When we look at young people across Europe, the rates of alcohol use here aren’t exceptionally different. However, heavy episodic drinking, commonly known as binge drinking, and drunkenness is higher in Ireland than elsewhere. Ireland has the third highest rate of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) among children and youth in the world, at 47.5 per 1000 population. FASD is associated with physical, mental, educational, social, and behavioural difficulties. At least one in three children live with one parent who binge drinks or is dependent on alcohol. It is estimated that 587,000 children, over half of whom are under 15 years of age are exposed to risk from parental alcohol use. Research by the Probation Services found that alcohol use was linked to the current offence of 53% of clients.
While we welcome the recommendation relating to the building in of a child protection objective into the legislation, what we now need to see if what that will mean in terms of the amendments to the Bill.
In its current form, the legislation has increased the hours that children can be in a bar when alcohol is being sold and it has removed the 15 year old age requirement for a child to be a private function when alcohol is being sold. The legislation now also needs to look at how we ensure that under age teenage discos in licensed night clubs are managed and children attending them are kept safe. The reports of excessive alcohol consumption before these events, sexual assaults and ED presentations associated with these events needs to be given serious consideration. Its imperative that the legislation sets an age requirement for these events and stipulates adult to child ratios for the venues running them, which are often very large with hundreds of young people in attendance. Young people need social outlets, and it’s up to Government to ensure that they can be run safely.
For further information or comment
Paula Leonard 087 1839573