NOffLA Speaks: Groundhog Day

NOffLA chairperson, Evelyn Jones, has described the government’s consideration of the implementation of a new voluntary code of practice for the sale of alcohol as being “like Groundhog Day”.

History seems to be repeating itself as initial government and government-agency intentions to tighten the environment surrounding the sale of alcohol are not followed through. Although the 2008 Intoxicating Liquor Act included strict provisions for the sale of alcohol in grocery and other mixed trade outlets, the then Minister, Noel Ahern, shied away from implementing the legislation in full.

The first 12 months of the current government saw significant momentum for legislative changes relating to the responsible sale of alcohol; particularly the implementation of the structural separation of alcohol from other retail products (“section nine”). Recent comments by Justice Minister, Alan Shatter, suggest that the Minister may now be rowing back on earlier indications that he was prepared to be uncompromising in the responsible trading of alcohol when he said that many smaller mixed trading outlets “would not have the financial capacity” to make the physical alterations required under section nine of the 2008 legislation.

A report from the National Substance Misuse Strategy Steering Group, published in February, specifically called on the government to “commence section nine (structural separation) of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008”, additionally calling for the introduction of “a statutory code of practice on the sale of alcohol in the off-licence sector”.

Roisin Shorthall, the Minister for State at the Department of Health, has previously voiced her support for the steering group’s approach and demonstrated the extent to which she has considered the impact of the proposals when she made the contention that the structural separation of alcohol in mixed trading environments “has very minor implications for jobs – negligible, in fact”.

NOffLA appeals to our legislators not to allow history to repeat itself by making the same mistake twice.

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