Martin Maloney highlights how the association has elevated responsible trading from being merely a policy objective to a being reality for its members
Much of the current debate about proposed legislation to tackle the abuse of alcohol in Ireland has centered on the issue of responsible trading. The commitment to ensure responsible trading has been made by legislators, the drinks industry, retailers and those charged with the promotion of health and the protection of youths.
What distinguishes the National Off-Licence Association in this debate is that the association has moved responsible trading from being a policy objective to being a reality for its members. Up to now, the absence of a government commitment to genuine support for the responsible sale of alcohol has made NOffLA’s objective very difficult. However, with the recent acknowledgement by the Taoiseach and other government Ministers that alcohol is NOT just another retail product, it would appear that Responsible Trading in the Community may become the standard by which all alcohol retailers will be measured.
The RTC programme was launched by NOffLA as a professional accreditation initiative to enhance staff training for those selling alcohol. As NOffLA chairperson, Evelyn Jones, recently explained, it has been acknowledged as a very special initiative: “The RTC programme is recognised as the first of its type in any market in Europe, where traditional off-licences operate. It is also the first programme to provide specialised online training resulting in formal certification for management and staff retailing alcohol in Ireland”.
While the current noises from government are welcome, responsible independent off-licensees are adamant that action should follow these words – and as quickly as possible. While the specifics of the proposed initiatives have not been finalised, there is one aspect of responsible trading that would appear not to have been given sufficient support. Speaking at the 2012 Off-Licence of the Year Awards, Evelyn Jones said: “For 10 years, NOffLA has also called on the government to introduce mandatory training for the retail of alcohol in Ireland, which would be a fundamental step towards dealing with alcohol related problems in this country. The government’s failure to introduce mandatory staff training as a practical step to prevent alcohol misuse in Ireland has disappointed our association, and we hope to see change on this point in 2012.”