Dáil Éireann - Volume 558 - 27 November, 2002

Written Answers. - Liquor Licensing Laws.

  91. Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if the Garda is encountering legal or operational difficulties in preventing underage abuse of alcohol; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23631/02]

  Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): Although legislative measures and enforcement activities have an important role to play in addressing the issue of underage alcohol consumption, a much broader-based response, involving a range of State agencies, the drinks industry, the media and, specifically, parents, is required.

  I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Garda Síochána has not encountered any significant operational difficulties in preventing underage abuse of alcohol. I am further informed that the Garda authorities are satisfied that the legislative framework currently in place is adequate to deal with this issue.

  In particular, the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 2000, [538]represents a considerable strengthening of the law in this regard. It increased fines for breaches of the law in relation to underage drinking, abolished the defence of “reasonable belief” in any proceedings against the licensee and made provision for a new penalty, a temporary closure order, for conviction for the sale of alcohol to underage persons. From the date of commencement of the Act up to 23 September 2002, some 371 prosecutions were taken, with 118 closure orders made, of which 19 were under appeal.

  The national age card scheme, introduced by statutory regulations in 1999, is designed to assist licensees in complying with the law. The scheme is intended for persons who have already attained 18 years of age and who are, therefore, legally entitled to purchase or consume alcohol on a licensed premises and who wish to do so. Its purpose is to provide evidence of age where a doubt exists. Approximately 80,000 age cards have been issued to date.

  Question No. 92 answered with Question No. 68.[539]