Dáil Éireann - Volume 328 - 07 April, 1981

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Under-age Drinking of Alcohol.

22. Dr. Browne asked the Minister for Justice if he is satisfied that the law in relation to under-age drinking of alcohol in public houses is being observed.

[1083] Mr. G. Collins: Under the Intoxicating Liquor (General) Act, 1924 it is an offence for a licensee to “knowingly” serve drink for consumption by persons under 18. Prosecutions are instituted where offences of this nature come to light.

As I have stated on previous occasions, the co-operation of the community is essential in bringing to the notice of the Garda information concerning those who may be deliberately selling intoxicating liquor to under-age persons.

Problems arise in relation to the implementation of this provision. Licensees may have difficulty in establishing whether or not particular young persons are under 18. When prosecutions are instituted, it can be difficult to prove that the licensee “knowingly” served drink to an under-age person.

This question is being looked at in connection with the present review of the licensing laws. I am examining all the proposals for amendment which I have received with a view to introducing a Bill that may help to counteract abuses, particularly the abuse of under-age drinking.

Dr. Browne: I am glad the Minister has taken some action in this matter. In a place like the Stardust where 700 or 800 youngsters gather, most of them under age, is it permissible or right that there should be drinking facilities? In such a situation the bartenders would not be able to make any decision with regard to age.

Mr. G. Collins: The situation described by Deputy Browne certainly exists and this is part of what has to be considered in relation to any amendment of the liquor laws.

Dr. Browne: Would the Minister not agree that a licence to serve alcoholic drink should not be granted in respect of a premises which is predominantly used by youngsters in the 15-24 age group?

Mr. G. Collins: What the Deputy suggests is very contentious and there are many who would hold differing views.

[1084] My difficulty is to come up with the best answer in a very difficult situation.

Mr. Horgan: How many prosecutions have been initiated during the past year in respect of under-age drinking?

Mr. G. Collins: In 1979, the last year for which I have full figures, there were 39 prosecutions but only 20 convictions.

Dr. Browne: The law is nearly unenforceable.

Mr. G. Collins: It is extremely difficult to enforce.

Mr. Keating: When will there be some finality with regard to this review body to which reference has been made during the past four years every time a question on this matter has been tabled? When will there be some action? The whole country is crying out for it.

Mr. G. Collins: The Deputy will have a wonderful time digesting the proposed legislation when it comes before this House.