Republican News · Thursday 8 June 1999

[An Phoblacht]

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 community life.

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.''

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