Minimum unit price for alcohol gets Cabinet green light

Updated / Tuesday, 4 May 2021 23:48

Alcohol consumption has remained at around 11 litres per person since 2015

By Paul Cunningham

The Cabinet has signed off on a plan by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly to introduce a minimum unit price for alcohol products.

The measure will come into effect on 1 January 2022.

Figures from the Revenue Commissioners show that alcohol consumption levels were at 10.07 litres per person in 2020, representing only a 6.6% fall on 2019, despite the closure of many premises for large parts of last year.

Alcohol consumption has remained at around 11 litres per person since 2015.

Eleven litres of pure alcohol is the equivalent of 116 bottles of wine or 445 pints of beer per adult every year.

Despite concerns raised by retailers, the Government is likely to press ahead with the changes, without a similar regime being introduced in Northern Ireland.

The Public Health Act sets a minimum price per gram of alcohol of 10c.

This would mean that a can of lager will have a minimum price of €1.32 and a bottle of Chardonnay would cost at least €7.75.

Scotland, which implemented minimum unit pricing in 2018, saw consumption levels fall in the following year to their lowest level in more than two decades.

The move has been welcomed by the Irish Medical Organisation.

President Dr Ina Kelly described the the decision as "a key public health intervention which will help in the ongoing battle against alcohol misuse".

Meanwhile the chief executive of the Vintners Federation of Ireland has said the move is only going to affect a very small amount of alcohol sales.

Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime, Padraig Cribben claimed supermarkets which sell very cheap alcohol increase the price of staples, such as bread and milk to compensate for the lower price on alcohol.

Many publicans unable to reopen outdoors - VFI

Separately Mr Cribben said up to 75% of VFI members will not be able to trade outdoors as they do not have outdoor facilities.

He said these publicans will not be in a position to trade until they are allowed to move indoors.

Mr Cribben said in the UK the period between the outdoor and indoor trading is quite short and a similar approach here could be "the solution that's needed."

He said the key is vaccination and also to move indoors and to do so in a safe manner.

The VFI would be expecting there would be a clear indication that publicans will be able to serve indoors in early July at the latest, he added.

Additional reporting Mícheál Lehane