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Children to make test alcohol purchases

Dermot Ahern’s ‘test purchasing of alcohol scheme’ has been welcomed by the VFI, but panned by Fine Gael as ‘bizarre and ill-conceived’

Plans to use children to carry out test purchases of alcohol, and alert Gardaí to the shops, pubs and clubs that sell alcohol to minors, have been welcomed by the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI).

VFI CEO Padraig Cribben said the ‘test purchasing of alcohol scheme,’ announced by Minister for Justice and Law Reform, Dermot Ahern, should be “lauded by all those involved in the sale of alcohol” for seeking to protect children from alcohol-related harm.

In fact, Cribben said the “scheme could have gone much further and the Minister should now use this scheme and the upcoming Sale of Alcohol Bill to introduce a mandatory garda ID age card for all those under the age of 18.”

The VFI also believes Minister Ahern’s desire to consider a parallel scheme for the distance selling of alcohol, would not actually do enough to protect young people and a ban on distance selling should therefore be introduced.  

Cribben added he wanted An Garda Síochána to “implement the scheme in an even manner. Currently 55-60% of all alcohol is sold in the off-trade and we would expect that this be reflected in the administration of the scheme,” he said.

Meanwhile, Fine Gael has criticised the government’s plan, due to be implemented this month, as “bizarre and ill-conceived” and has called for it to be abandoned.

The party’s spokesman on justice, Alan Shatter, said using boys and girls aged 15-17 to test licensees’ compliance with the law, amounted to “entrapment” and exploited the young people involved.

Shatter added the consent of both parents, and not only one as is envisaged, should be required before a teenager could volunteer for the role.

He also believed children may experience stress if they have to give evidence in court, and risk being beaten up when their role as test purchasers emerges.

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