Irish revolutionise his nation's drinking habits

Reply Mon 13 Jun, 2005 12:42 am
Irish minister calls for café society to beat binge-drinking

By David McKittrick, Ireland Correspondent
13 June 2005

The Irish pub is a celebrated institution around the world, inspiring theme bars from America to Australia and Argentina. But now an Irish minister, alarmed by what drink is doing to the country's young people, is attempting to revolutionise his nation's fabled drinking habits.

Michael McDowell, the Justice Minister, wants to encourage a new type of establishment on the continental model, in the hope that smaller premises will reduce excesses which are causing national concern. The government wants to ensure "that young people do not drink themselves into oblivion, and that we tackle the negative social and health effects of the Irish love affair with alcohol".

The café-bars will be limited in size and obliged to sell food as well as drink.

Mr McDowell has, however, run into stiff opposition from government backbenchers, many of whom are themselves publicans. This week will see an attempt to stop the plan in its tracks.

One of the publicans' groups complains that "such social engineering is impractical and impossible". Of the continental approach, a spokesman added: "There is no demand so nobody rushes to meet that demand." He dismissed the idea as "a lovely, romantic notion". And one individualist politician thought it a utopian notion that "the Irish people were going to drink cappuccinos and eat croissants".

Mr McDowell and much of the public want to encourage Irish youth to drink less and cut down on "bingeing". This is a familiar phenomenon in many countries including the UK but Irish teens are at the very top of the European binge-drinking league. That applies to girls as well as boys. Against the backdrop of the fastest growing economy in Europe, Ireland has had the highest increase in alcohol consumption among EU countries.

"We have a very drink-friendly culture," said Stephen Rowen, director of Dublin's Rutland Centre for alcohol treatment. "It's considered very cool for young people to drink to get intoxicated - not just to have a drink or two to get a little escapism. They drink to get buzzed, blitzed, blocked."

The drinks industry acknowledges there is serious alcohol abuse but rejects what it describes as the popular perception of itself as "a malevolent industry hellbent on using advertising to push its products". It describes some media coverage as "characterised by hysterical over-reaction".

It is beyond argument, however, that a surfeit of alcohol contributes to rowdyism, nuisance and often outright violence.

Last month the Prime Minister Bertie Ahern told the Irish parliament that up to a third of patients arriving at hospital accident and emergency units were under the influence. On weekend nights this rises to 75 per cent.

A Dublin A&E consultant Edward Brazil said: "I worked in Britain for seven years and I've been here for three years and it's been awful - much worse than anything in Britain."

A new Bill will streamline and modernise liquor laws which date back as far as 1833 and include 600 licensing provisions scattered over some 100 statutes.

The authorities are worried about the rise of enormous "super-pubs". Mr McDowell said: "When large numbers of people emerge from these premises at closing time, there is inevitably an increased risk of public disorder. We have seen the alarming effects of this on our streets in recent years."

Theproposed café-bars would have a new type of licence limiting their size to 130 square metres and forbidding any extension of opening hours. Mr McDowell explained: "We want a scenario where people can have a pizza with a pint instead of drinking themselves senseless. That needs a cultural shift in this country in our approach to alcohol consumption."
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Walter Hinteler
Reply Mon 13 Jun, 2005 12:47 am
On Saturday in Ireland:

Speaking to Radio Kerry today, Minister McDowell said: "I do believe that the great majority of Irish people favour the line that I'm taking, and obviously there is a lobby on at the moment against café-bars, but I don't think that the will of the Irish people, which is in my opinion to make it possible to have a beer and a pizza, or a beer with your meal in any restaurant in Ireland."

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Walter Hinteler
Reply Mon 13 Jun, 2005 12:54 am


Rip-off Ireland secure: McDowell forced by Fianna Fáil publican T.Ds to surrender to Pub LobbyBy Michael Hennigan
Jun 12, 2005

New licensing system for restaurants will make it illegal to serve a customer alcohol, who is standing!

The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern T.D. and Fianna Fáil publican T.Ds led by John Moloney, Laois-Offaly publican and member of Dáil Éireann, have forced Justice Minister Michael McDowell, into a humiliating retreat on the plan to introduce a licensing system for Continental style café bars, which would be a hybrid of the traditional pub and a restaurant.

McDowell's goal was to both promote competition and encourage a more moderate drinking culture.

As Irish publicans and farmers are well represented in Parliament, the pub lobby successfully campaigned with the help of Fianna Fáil, the main party in the governing coalition, against McDowell's proposals on the ostensible grounds that they would promote alcohol abuse. Self-interest as always, is never an issue!

According to The Sunday Tribune, the Taoiseach forced McDowell to eat humble pie but offered a face-saver with a new proposal that restrictions on restaurants serving alcohol, will be removed. However, it will be illegal to serve a customer who is not seated and also to allow a customer to take alcohol from the premises.

The Commission on Liquor Licensing had proposed the café bar system.

It will be interesting to see how the planned system will work in for example the Unicorn Restaurant off Dublin's Merrion Row.

The Unicorn has a bar counter where customers can have a drink while waiting for a table. It appears that the new law will make it illegal to serve customers unless a bar stool is also free!

Full article
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Walter Hinteler
Reply Mon 13 Jun, 2005 12:57 am
Today, from the frontpage of The Irish Times


Mon, Jun 13, 05
PD anger after McDowell abandons cafe-bar plans

Liam Reid Political Reporter

Minister for Justice Michael McDowell is to drop proposals for a new cafe-bar licence in favour of reforming restaurant licences following discussions with Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

The issue prompted an attack by Progressive Democrats senator Tom Morrissey on the elements within Fianna Fáil which opposed the reform as being "in the pockets of vested interests".

He also warned that the lifetime of the coalition Government could be shortened by further attempts to block reforms by the PDs.

Mr McDowell will outline his new plans for liquor licence reforms to a meeting of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party tomorrow evening.

The amended proposals, which were discussed by the Taoiseach and Mr McDowell last Thursday, will enable restaurants to obtain full drinks licences. Many are currently confined to selling wine.

Mr McDowell was unavailable for comment yesterday, but he is believed to reject suggestions that it is an embarrassing climbdown on the cafe-bar plan, which was originally proposed by the Commission on Liquor Licensing.

The compromise comes ahead of a private members motion in the Dáil tomorrow by Fine Gael against the cafe-bar idea, which had been expected to prompt a number of Fianna Fáil TDs to speak against Mr McDowell's proposals.

Forty three members of the party had already signed up to an internal party motion against cafe bars.

Senator Tom Morrissey attacked the approach of Fianna Fáil backbenchers towards proposed reforms being pursued by the Tánaiste and Minister for Health Mary Harney and Mr McDowell in their respective areas.

"If there's resistance towards reform, well then the lifetime of this Government will be shorter than 2007," he told The Irish Times.

"Some people in Fianna Fáil are more concerned about where you drink than how much you drink," Mr Morrissey said, claiming the opposition to cafe bars was prompted by concerns for publicans.

"Some people in Fianna Fáil stand for nothing, believe in nothing except one thing called power," he said. He claimed that some of his Fianna Fáil colleagues were "in the pockets of everybody. They work for vested interests".

Mr Morrissey's comments prompted an angry reaction from Fianna Fáil backbenchers behind the original motion, including Kilkenny TD John McGuinness, who described Mr Morrissey's comments as outrageous. "I act for no vested interest and I think I'm someone standing up for decency in Fianna Fáil, and I'm entitled to express my view about cafe bars," he said.
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Reply Sat 12 Apr, 2008 12:29 pm
Being bored and, with a couple of hours to go before Masters coverage begins, I searched for Bertie Ahern - soon to be ex-Prime Minister here - and found this ancient topic.

Astonishingly, Mr. McDowell lost his seat at the last election.

(sits back and waits for flurry of responses)
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