Opening hours Bill welcomed
New legislation allowing for longer pub opening hours was
welcomed by Sinn Féin's Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin in the Dáil last
week. The Cavan/Monaghan TD also called for restrictions on
licensed clubs to be lifted in recognition of their role in
The Intoxicating Liquor Bill 2000 provides for the extension of
pub opening hours to 11.30pm on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and
12.30am on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Sunday closing will
remain at 11pm and the changes will apply all year round.
Ó Caoláin described these reforms as ``long overdue'' and said they
addressed the need to deal honestly with the reality of drinking
habits in Ireland today.
He told the Dáil:
``Many people are genuinely concerned about the possible
ill-effects of extended opening hours. We need to take on board
those concerns. They arise from an awareness of the widespread
abuse of alcohol and from knowledge of the high levels of
alcoholism in this country and its terrible effects on people
with an addiction and on those around them. This is a complex
issue. There is not a simplistic direct relation between hours
of opening and the incidence of alcoholism. The liberalisation
in the Bill is necessary. It is also necessary to adopt a more
determined approach to the issue of alcoholism and its treatment.
This is our most serious drug problem, yet it gets only a
fraction of the attention it deserves.''
Referring to licensed clubs, Ó Caolain said: ``Such clubs are an
integral part of community life in urban and rural areas
throughout the country. The Bill maintains unnecessary
restrictions on such clubs, restrictions that in most cases are
not enforced. The requirement for all patrons other than members
to sign in individually and to be effectively chaperoned by a
club member is widely disregarded and should be dispensed with.
``The Bill further tightens restrictions whereby clubs would not
be able to host private functions other than those for a club
member. That would deprive many clubs of badly needed revenue.
Many of those are the same clubs that appeal every year for
funding under the Sports Capital Programme, yet that provision
would curb their ability to supplement their funds by hosting
birthday parties, christenings, retirement parties and so on.
Surely what is needed is a liberalisation of the law so that
private functions and fundraising functions for local
organisations can be allowed in clubs with patrons free to attend
as they would other venues.''