Seanad Éireann - Volume 81 - 17 June, 1975
Restricted Licences Conversion Fund Bill, 1975: Second and Subsequent Stages.
Question proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”
Minister for Justice (Mr. Cooney) Patrick M. Cooney
Minister for Justice (Mr. Cooney): The Bill is a very straightforward and simple one. It provides that the money paid into the Exchequer in the three year period after the passing of the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1960, by person who availed themselves of section 27 (4) of that Act, shall be expended on such projects relating to the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of alcoholism as the Minister for Health, after consultation with the Minister for Justice, from time to time determines. That provision of the 1960 Act, which was originally in force for two years and which was extended for a further year by the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1962, permitted holders of restricted licences to convert them into full seven-day licences on payment of £200 to the Revenue Commissioners. Restricted licences include six-day, early-closing, six-day-and-early-closing and beer-house licences. The total number of licences converted under the scheme was 725, out of a total of about 1,400 restricted licences then in being, and the amount paid over was £145,000. In accordance with the 1960 Act, the fund is managed by the Minister for Finance. In 1972 the fund was invested in 6½ per cent Exchequer Stock. The 1960 Act provides that the assets of the fund shall be disposed of in such manner and for such purposes as may be determined by Act of the Oireachtas.
Senators are no doubt aware from recent press reports that the Irish National Council on Alcoholism, at my request, have undertaken a project to determine the incidence of alcoholism  among prisoners and to recommend treatment for the problem. Preparatory work has been concluded by two members of the Alcoholic Scientific Research Committee and the project will begin next month. It is expected that it will take about 15 months.
I requested INCA to undertake the project because I am aware that alcoholism is a serious problem in Ireland and I have been concerned for some time about it as a factor in crime. The project is designed to establish the prevalance of problem drinking among prisoners and to make recommendations as to how prisoners might be treated. It is concerned with the social and medical background of prisoners with drinking problems, with a view to finding out the factors associated with their problem drinking, determining long-term treatment and suggesting possible preventive measures. I would like to state quite categorically that participation in the project will be voluntary for all prisoners. Those who will carry out the project will be professional researchers of the highest standard. Any prisoners who take part in the project have my assurance, if this is needed, that whatever material is made available to the research team, will be treated as strictly confidential and will not be used for any purpose other than the project. Research records will be destroyed within one month of the completion of the report.
The project and any treatment programming necessary will be carried out in consultation with health boards to ensure that there is no overlapping with psychiatric services already provided to prisoners under the aegis of the boards.
The point has been made that the project smacks of using prisoners as guinea pigs. I totally reject this suggestion. This project is in ease of prisoners and will try to determine if alcoholism is a factor in what has happened to them and, if so, whether they can be assisted. It is my hope that it will contribute significantly to reducing the incidence of recidivism among our prisoners.
The Medico Social Research Board very generously offered to make finances available on a recoupment basis to get  the project off the ground, pending the passing of the Bill, and I would like to take this opportunity of thanking them.
I would also like to thank the Irish National Council on Alcoholism for the very worthwhile task they are performing in making the public aware of the problems associated with alcoholism.
It has been argued that the amount available, that is, £145,000, is not a significant amount of money when compared to the amount of money spent on the consumption, or even on the advertising, of intoxicating liquor. While this is, of course, true I would like to point out that substantial sums are spent by the Department of Health and the health boards on campaigns aimed at making the public aware of the problems arising from alcoholism and heavy drinking and attempting to develop a more responsible attitude to drinking, especially among young persons. The Department of Health have spent over £100,000 on this campaign since 1973.
Section 1 of the Bill proposes that the assets of the Restricted Licences Conversion Fund, which was established by section 27 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1960, shall be disposed of in such manner and for such purposes relating to the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of alcoholism as the Minister for Health, after consultation with the Minister for Justice, from time to time determines.
Section 2 of the Bill is a consequential provision, which proposes the repeal of section 27 (7) (b) of the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1960. That provision, strictly construed, would require that the precise use or uses to which the money is to be put should be spelt out in the Act itself. That, however, would commit the fund in an unnecessarily restrictive way and I think it is better to replace the provision by one that will permit greater flexibility in the use of the money.
This option was in addition to another permanent provision in the 1960 Act whereby a restricted licence could be converted to a full licence by extinguishing a full seven-day licence in any part of the State or by extinguishing a restricted licence attached to another  premises in the same District Court area or by extinguishing two restricted licences outside the District Court area.
The Intoxicating Liquor Commissions of 1925 and 1957 were both of the opinion that there were too many licensed premises in the country. In fact a scheme for the reduction in the number of licences was incorporated in the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1927, but it was abandoned after a short time, in the course of which 299 licences out of a total of about 13,000 were abolished at a cost of £60,000. When introducing in the Dáil the relevant provision of the 1960 Act, the then Minister for Justice indicated that if the sum accumulated made it worthwhile, the money would be used for the purchase and extinction of licences—Official Report Vol. 182, columns 44 and 45. Having considered the matter fully, I am convinced that it would be a total waste of the money to use it to purchase and extinguish licences. While, no doubt, there is much to be said for the view that there are too many licensed premises in the country, it is very doubtful, in view of the difficulties in the way of obtaining licences under the Licensing Acts, if the public interest would be served by a scheme of purchase of licences for abolition unless that scheme had the effect of (a) substantially reducing the number of licences and (b) introducing an element of greater flexibility into the Licensing Acts so that licences could be obtained without undue cost for premises in areas that are not adequately served. Moreover, the experience of the 1927 Act scheme suggests that, long before any scheme for the abolition of licences on the basis of compensation, at any rate in today's conditions, reached the stage of having any significant effect, the cost of the compensation would become entirely prohibitive.
The Government consider that, although it would be impractical to use the money to buy licences, nevertheless, it would be desirable to use it for a “drink related project” and they regard the study and treatment of alcoholism as an appropriate subject for the fund. The Bill, accordingly, provides that the assets of the fund shall be disposed of for purposes connected with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of alcoholism.
 I commend the Bill to the House.
Mr. Lenihan Mr. Lenihan
Mr. Lenihan: This Bill is unexceptionable. It is welcomed as far as we are concerned. There is no question about it that the Fund is there since the conversion of six-day licences to seven-day licences since 1960. It is a question of utilising the fund in the most practical way. As the Minister has pointed out, it is unreal on present day values to think of utilising the fund for the purchase of seven-day licences and thereby diminishing the number of licences. Indeed, £145,000 would hardly buy out one good seven-day licence in any metropolitan or urban area.
The Bill has a limited effect. Within the limitations of spending £145,000 for dealing with the alcoholic problem that exists, this Bill is welcome. I should like to enter one caveat and I am saying this as a person who takes a drink. Bringing in matters of this kind, devoting funds towards the treatment of alcoholism, is welcome and the Department of Health are rapidly becoming orientated towards the importance of dealing with this problem, but it seems, to put it mildly, hypocritical on the part of the State, to be engaging in this while allowing advertising of alcohol on television.
It appears to be contradictory that if one considers the apparatus of the State as a whole and the money being put into the television advertising of drink, with an obvious appeal to the younger generation and obviously designed to erode and undermine their attitudes, it is hypocritical to have a measure of this kind, to have a campaign by the Department of Health side by side with the unlimited advertising of drink on television. If a stance has been taken on cigarette smoking by a previous Government, of which I was a member, the same stance should be taken in regard to advertisement of alcoholic drink.
There is no question that alcohol has a place in society. It is a very useful sedative. It is nice to go to bed after one or two drinks. But it is a question of using and abusing young people. I feel that the adolescent appeal that is so blatant and obvious in television advertising  is a matter that should be decried. It is within the scope of the Government to take their own stance on this. Until that is done measures of this kind, while welcome, are only nibbling at the problem. The basic problem is to discourage the encouragement of people to engage in excessive drinking, discourage the glamorisation of it which is so endemic on television. Apart from those comments, the Bill is welcome.
Mr. M.J. O'Higgins Mr. M.J. O'Higgins
Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: Senator Lenihan will probably be surprised in that I am going to express agreement with virtually everything he said. I am glad he welcomed this Bill, a common sense provision. I would have thought, but for the Minister's explanation, that one of the worthwhile purposes which the fund might have been used for, in the light of the problem Senator Lenihan was talking about, would have been the purchasing out and extinguishing of licences. The Minister has dealt with that question.
Someone who does not drink always feels somewhat diffident in speaking on the question Senator Lenihan referred to. Although I do not drink I do not regard myself as in any way bigotted or intolerant as regard those who take a drink. Whether one drinks or not, it is recognised—possibly, it is not an exaggeration to say the world over—that we have here now and have had for many decades, what might be described as a national drink problem.
The figures for alcohol put in relation to figures for other types of expenditure demonstrate the extent of the problem which we as a nation face in relation to alcohol. The Bill which the Minister is recommending to the House shows even though perhaps only in a small way, not merely a recognition of the problem that exists but a desire to do something about it in a systematic way. If the problem is to be dealt with it must be dealt with first by doing the necessary homework, the necessary research work, and the proposal of the Minister for the utilisation of this fund at least forms part of the research work that seems to be essential.
It would be most unfortunate if any of us were to create the impression that  because the fund is being used in relation to prisoners with a drink problem prisoners were thereby being made guinea pigs. The Minister has dealt very properly and very adequately with that suggestion, and it certainly was not made by Senator Lenihan in the course of his remarks. I agree with Senator Lenihan's remarks in connection with the advertising of drink, although I am as conscious as I am sure Senator Lenihan was that that does not come strictly within the terms of the Bill. It could have a relevancy in this way that Senator Lenihan made the case logically and sensibly about the method of drink advertising on television, that naturally it is the job of the advertiser to sell the product in a light which is going to attract customers. It may very well be that part of the research work that would be done under this project would be to establish precisely what effect television and radio advertising in relation to drink has as a starting point for the person with a drink problem. In that sense there is a certain relevancy in the remark, but relevant or not, I think it is worthwhile that that problem linked with advertising should be pointed out. I am glad that the Bill has got the welcome it has from Senator Lenihan, and I feel sure the Seanad as a whole will approve of it.
Dr. West Dr. West
Dr. West: I give a hearty welcome to this Bill, as I think we all do. It is very appropriate that money which has been collected from the conversion of particular licences should be spent on attempting to find out some more about the problem of alcoholism. The Minister has mentioned one specific study that he is going to undertake. It seems to me from what he said that it is going to be a thoroughly well worked out, documented and researched scientific study. That is the sort of thing that is needed because this is a very complex problem. It is not easy for anybody whether he is a tee-totaller or not to get up and pontificate. The pressures come from all sides. On the one side we want to see the problem of alcoholism reduced and we want to make people realise the terrible effects that can fall on one's family life or one's ordinary life if one has alcoholic tendencies. One must balance this  against the fact that drinking is now an accepted part of our social life.
The drink industry is a very big employer and generous employer of large numbers of people. It provides very large amounts of revenue through taxation. From that point of view the Government would be very worried if there was a great falling off in the consumption of alcohol because it would mean a horrific fall off in revenue which comes in. It is not a simple problem. There are pressures from all angles. It is important as well that we should understand something about the social side of drinking as well as the purely medical side. For that reason I am very pleased that it is the Medico Social Research Board which is involved here, because the social aspects are almost as important as the medical aspects. It is a social problem, the pressures on people who have a drink problem are often social. They have a a medical difficulty, but the social pressures that exploit this medical difficulty are often very unclearly understood.
In rural parts of the country the pub is often the centre of social life. One must not underestimate it. There is also the problem of people who live alone. They may find that the only way in a small community to meet people is to go into a pub. It is well recognised that particularly in the Irish rural social structure as well as in the urban social structure the pub is a focal point. It is one of the great meeting places for people. One of the problems that is faced is the problem of changing attitudes. One of the attitudes that we want to change for example is that which discourages tee-totallers going into pubs. I would be very happy to see Senator O'Higgins going into pubs more often than he does; perhaps he goes in a good deal, because he——
Mr. M.J. O'Higgins Mr. M.J. O'Higgins
Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: Is that an invitation?
Dr. West Dr. West
Dr. West: I will buy the Senator pints of orange juice any Saturday night. The point that I wish to make is that if people who do not drink go into pubs and maintain their standards they can do a great deal of good. They can moderate this system of round buying.
 They often will have a clearer head than those people who may be indulging and the very fact that they are accepted and that their habits and their customers are accepted would be an important change. At the moment——
Mr. M.J. O'Higgins Mr. M.J. O'Higgins
Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: I think it is fair to say that nowadays many of the pubs are catering in such a way that what the Senator is advocating is welcome.
Dr. West Dr. West
Dr. West: Yes, and this is a very important and very good change. Senator O'Higgins will agree with me that ten years ago this was not the case. This is a very important change in our attitude. It is the understanding of the social phenomena which are involved here in which this is so important. It is even more important to my mind than the understanding of the medical phenomena. I support this Bill and I am particularly pleased to see the Medico Social Research Board involved. One of the bodies that might easily be consulted in the course of this work and one of the bodies which has done a tremendous amount to help people in real difficulty is Alcoholics Anonymous. They are a body whose praises I could not sing highly enough.
The way they work is that they provide a community into which people who have a problem can go and can share their difficulties with others who have been in similar difficulties. They replace the community life of the pub or the hotel with the community life in which everybody has had an alcoholic problem and are in the process of getting over it. We want to examine the structure of our community and particularly the rural communities where often there is no other focus or meeting point.
Any real attempt to obtain more understanding and more background information on the problem of alcoholism and the whole problem of drinking in Ireland would be welcome. This money is very suitably going to research on the problem of alcoholism. There are other drugs which we use in the normal course of events. Senator Lenihan has mentioned the problem of tobacco which has serious side effects. There is also the problem which is being considered in the other House at the moment of various types of drugs, and  one seems to gather from medical evidence that there are certain of these drugs which have just about as serious an affect as alcohol or tobacco. The whole difference in the problem is that they are not an accepted part of our social scene whereas alcohol is.
There is no point in arguing about bans or severe restrictions. We have seen from the Americans' experience in the thirties that prohibition just makes the problem worse by pushing it underground. What we must have is more understanding of the attitudes towards drinking and an understanding of the place that alcohol and pub life hold in our society and the effect that they have on the fabric of society where it fits in. Any research such as that proposed in the Bill will be very welcome to help us to understand this very difficult problem.
Mr. Ferris Mr. Ferris
Mr. Ferris: I also welcome this Bill. I congratulate the Minister on bringing this legislation before the House to deal with the expenditure of this money, which as he outlined in his speech, is derived from the conversion of restricted spirit licences. The money derived therefrom is to be donated to a research programme for drink-related problems such as the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of alcoholism. Some of the speakers so far have declared their like or dislike of the subject matter of the Bill—whether they take a drink or not. Anyone who wants to know whether I take a drink or not, I will see him in the bar as soon as we get the Bill through the House.
It is not a question of whether one likes to take a drink or not that we are worried about. It is the unfortunate person who cannot take a drink and enjoy it, the man who suffers from alcoholism, that we are talking about. If this Bill does anything to help research into this problem, which is a problem that has taken up the time and has concerned many of the health boards in this country, including my own health board in the south eastern region, it will be worth while. We have discussed the problem of alcoholism on various occasions. Various suggestions have been made. The evils of alcoholism have been outlined by psychiatrists, and  everybody working in that field realises the problem created by lack of control of drinking.
The Leader of the House referred to the amount of money that is spent nationally on drink. I said in another debate in this House recently that the figure was something like £6 million per week. This figure has since been confirmed by statistics that the population of this country are spending over £300 million per annum. This indicates how extensive this problem is. I only hope that the amount of money available as a result of the passage of this Bill is sufficient to carry out the programme which the researchers will have to do. I am pleased that the prisoners who are making themselves available are doing so voluntarily. I have no doubt but that this guideline will be followed in the implementation of it. Many of the prisoners are probably in jail as a result of their addiction to drink and the evils that follow.
The Minister in his speech also referred to advertising—not so much the advertising of drink but the advertisements by the Department of Health to counteract drinking. I have heard various views expressed on the format of these advertisements. I must say that the initial course of advertisements often left me in doubt as to which side they were on. Sometimes when looking at the advertisements you thought it was an advertisement by some of the well-known liquor manufacturers when the final punch line was anti-liquor. The vast majority of what was projected on the screen before that did more harm than good. It is only in recent times that the Department of Health advertisements on this subject have outlawed the round system of buying. We are all guilty of this round system of buying. It will take a lot of education and understanding to get away from the generosity of the Irish people, particularly in pubs. It will take a long time to break down the old tradition of standing a round to people. Any advertisements that can be made in this line to outlaw round-drinking is to be welcomed. I think there are improvements of recent time which have shown the disadvantages of the round system.
References were made to advertisements  in favour of drinking. Even though this is out of order in the Bill it might be relevant to mention that Telefís Éireann could possibly consider, with a bit of coaxing from the Minister for Health, that any money that is derived from advertising for drink could be spent on counter-advertising. In other words, for each advertisement in favour of drink there should be an advertisement opposing drink to balance the advertisements. Everyone of us, whether we take a drink or not, realise the problems that are created by alcoholism.
Senator West referred to the obvious concern of any Government at the loss of revenue if the total consumption of alcohol should drop. I honestly feel that this loss of revenue, if it came about— and statistics prove that the dearer drink becomes the more of it is drunk— would be balanced by the increase in the amount of man-hours which would be gained as a result of a lessening in the amount of alcoholism and in the number of people who, because of overdrinking, miss work. In this way there would be a tremendous improvement in the output per man-hours, and production would possibly improve if more people were not missing through excessive drinking over week-ends.
These are my own personal views on the subject. We should not be afraid to grasp that nettle if that is the only reason we are afraid to cut down drinking here. If there is any money at all left from this fund—and I doubt it with this kind of research programme— we should bring a further Bill before this House to apply this kind of money to ensure that the regulations involved in the control of teenage drinking are more rigidly applied, whether it be in the form of identification or some kind of campaign to preserve our teenagers from this excessive drinking. Other than that I welcome all the provisions in the Bill and compliment the Minister for using these funds for such a very welcome project.
Mr. Hanafin Mr. Hanafin
Mr. Hanafin: I, too, welcome this Bill. I note that money will be expended on projects relating to treatment and prevention of alcoholism. The money will be spent, I note here, on studying prisoners and making recommendations  as to how prisoners might be treated. The Minister said he is concerned, and I am quite sure he is, with the social and medical background of prisoners with drinking problems.
There are two kinds of problems. One is a heavy drinking problem and the other is alcoholism. All heavy drinkers are not alcoholics. I have heard, on many occasions, suggestions as to how alcoholics should be treated and the best way in which money should be spent—what they call the most beneficial manner—in helping alcoholics. There is nothing anyone can do to help an alcoholic unless he wants to help himself. If an alcoholic wants to drink that is his business and only if he wants to stop does it become other people's business. The unfortunate part of the disease alcoholism is that it takes a long time to get recognition from the person who suffers from it. There is no accepted viewpoint as to how one becomes an alcoholic. There are people who claim that one becomes an alcoholic by heavy drinking over a period of years. I do not accept that view under any circumstances. I believe, and I am not without some knowledge of this subject, that one is, in fact, born an alcoholic. It is a chemical thing within the system and I believe there are people who live to be a ripe old age and go to their grave without ever taking a drink, in fact may have worn a pioneer pin, and died without ever being aware of the fact that they were alcoholics. All they needed was the first drink and then it would have taken a long time, even after that, for them to recognise that they were different from other people in their drinking.
I welcome anything that might help a person suffering from alcoholism. There are many splendid people involved in this work. One is known to the Minister and myself, an exceptional medical man who devotes all his time to the subject of alcoholism and contributes an enormous amount to it. There are very few people who understand the alcoholic's mind. The only person who can possibly understand it is the fellow alcoholic. The association of Alcoholics Anonymous are able to do quite an amount of good because they have a perfect understanding of the  problem, each one having suffered and still suffering from it. They can understand the poor unfortunate alcoholic who has now decided that his life is ruined and he must do something about it. He will get an understanding there that he has been deprived of during his drinking life and he can be helped. I have heard at health board meetings and various places how money should be spent on special hospitals or special buildings for alcoholics. Hospitals have nothing to do with it. Hospitals can only serve the purpose of what is known in alcoholic circles as the drying-out period. Doctors can only help when the alcoholic is brought in to hospital to be given the type of treatment that will prevent him from going into what is known as the withdrawal stages which is a quite frightening thing for an alcoholic. They can only help in this and in drying him out. After that, all the money in the world cannot help the alcoholic unless he wants to do something about it himself.
I am sorry I have not prepared anything on this Bill. I was not aware it was coming up today, but that is my fault. There was a lot I would like to have said about it, perhaps given more time, but I am handicapped in so much that I am being more selective of my words than I normally am and that deters me from speaking as freely as I normally do. It is a subject that I appreciate the seriousness of, and because of that I am very cautious in what I say.
People who drink heavily are under many pressures. I heard an interesting item on the radio today about some surveys that had been carried out which indicated that housewives were now drinking from boredom. I suppose that could be considered a social pressure. There will be many more pressures on people. I think when we have gone through an affluent stage this leads to heavy drinking, not alcoholism which is a separate thing. People will have to curtail their drinking because they will be restricted from the point of view of money. A lot of people mentioned the round system but until such time as someone says that is the mean man's way of doing things, we will continue to have the round system. Again, that  has no relation to alcoholism at all, nor has will power anything to do with it. It is a physical and mental compulsion over which the person has no control. One thing I have heard many alcoholics say is, as God did give them a disease, thank God He gave them a disease they could do something about themselves. There are many people dying with other diseases they could do nothing about, but this is one disease that the alcoholic can do something about.
It is one thing for the alcoholic to stop drinking. After that he needs the understanding of everybody. If money is to be spent, perhaps it could be spent on the education of the public—when I say “public” I mean non-alcoholics, because they need as much education on the subject as alcoholics. It is a contagious disease in as much as it affects many people around the alcoholic. If affects the whole family and others associated with him. Understanding is more important than all the statistics and reports that will be compiled. These may be of help to those trying to do something about alcoholism, but understanding is the most important thing required by the alcoholic. His life is difficult whether he is or is not drinking because he is subject to frustrations and depression not suffered by the nonalcoholic. This is an accepted fact and he learns this when attending AA meeting. During group therapy there he finds everybody suffers many things. Not alone is there the anxiety of drink but there are many complexes which one would be better without. He learns that he is not alone in his predicament— there are many others around him.
The alcoholic can stop drinking but his family must know that he needs understanding and tolerance. It is easy enough to stop drinking but it is quite another thing to remain in that state.
Miss Walsh Miss Walsh
Miss Walsh: Like my colleagues, I welcome the Bill. I commend the Minister for making such good use of the money which has accumulated. I should like to preface my remarks by saying, first, I am not a teetotaller. I am a member of the licensed trade and as such I may sound rather hypocritical. Drink itself is a good thing. It  has its uses; it was used by Our Lord himself at the wedding feast at Cana.
I am a social drinker; nobody enjoys a drink better than I do, but nobody in this House abhors alcoholism and drunkenness more than I do. As a member of the trade, this may sound incongruous, but these are the facts. A social drink enlivens a person, sharpens his wits, brightens his mentality, gives a necessary pick-up when he is tired. It has been described as “a feast of reason and a flow of soul”. I also know in vino veritas—people who are somewhat inhibited in their more sober moments can make quite a useful showing when they have a few drinks.
But having said all that, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that alcohol motivates much of the crime which we have in our society today, particularly crimes of a sexual nature. It can also lead to social evils such as the problem of battered wives, broken homes, abandoned children and eventually, perhaps, even to murder. Nothing could be more horrible for a mother who is doing her best to rear her family than to see an alcoholic father come home and upset her life's work. Bad example set by an alcoholic father can, as was said from the other side of the House, become infectious. Many of the juvenile crimes have been provoked by bad example within the home. This is not always the fault of the father. There is also the problem of the “supermarket housewife alcoholic”. I do not want to dwell on the sordid details of this but it, too, is a fact of modern life.
I agree with the Minister that alcoholism is a problem that must be tackled at all levels in order to arrive at a cure. To do this it is vital to get to the root cause of the trouble. Very few alcoholics are favourably disposed to taking treatment. Rarely do they voluntarily enter institutions to achieve a cure. The project envisaged by the Minister takes place within our prison walls. People are committed on long term, or even short term, sentences and if the root cause can be pinpointed as over-indulgence of alcohol—perhaps a person has been an alcoholic all his life but has been unaware of the fact—it would provide a glorious opportunity to study the person in close confinement and on a long term basis and effect an  eventual cure. Prisoners are very suitable—I would not call them “guinea pigs”—subjects for this project.
The only thing wrong with this fund is that it is far too small. The sum of £145,000 may not produce the results the Minister has in mind. If funds were available we could double that sum. Again, I welcome the Bill and wish it a speedy passage through the House.
Dr. Martin Dr. Martin
Dr. Martin: With other Senators, I welcome the Bill, which is a most enlightened one. Even though the sum involved at the moment is very small it is a step in the right direction. The Bill is of a piece with many other Bills the present Minister for Justice has brought into the House. Since he took office he has brought forward a whole range of admirable measures concerned with unmarried mothers and their support and the status of women, which have helped to alleviate the position of those who are victimised or underprivileged. He has demonstrated how a Minister for Justice can do much to alleviate difficulties in the spheres of social welfare and health as well as in matters of justice.
We see the conjuction of two Ministries in section 1 of the Bill where it states that “the Minister for Health, after consultation with the Minister for Justice from time to time determine.” That is a step forward because problems of justice and of health have for far too long been treated in separate compartments. This is a very good headline for progress that could be made in a number of other areas. One has only to read reports of court cases to realise how many serious crimes emanate from alcoholic excess. It is rather normal.
Indeed I want to relate the details of the contours of it, the fact that alcoholism has a physical, social, moral, familial dimension. It is one of the great killers, even in terms of health alone. It destroys the individual; it destroys his body and it destroys sanity. In terms of the family, as has been pointed out by many of the Senators, Senator Hanafin in particular, it is probably the most disruptive single force in terms of family life, particularly in Ireland but indeed throughout the world. It seems to produce in the  individual inflicted by this dreadful malaise suspension of social responsibility and even familial love and tenderness. It produces a kind of madness.
I think most people who have recovered from alcoholism will admit that during their period of alcoholism their ability to think straight was radically impaired. It is socially disastrous. The extraordinary calamities created through the entire social system are quite enormous. It brings so many people to the courts, but as well as that and as has been pointed out, it makes havoc in the professions, in industry, in commerce so much so that the efficiency of the human being is frequently eroded and ultimately destroyed by alcoholism. The extraordinary loss to industry is something that certainly needs to be looked at and therefore it is a very encouraging thing to see the Minister devote these funds to so enlightened a cause.
It has been pointed out, and I will not again dwell on the fact, that the condition of alcoholism requires sympathy or at the very least it requires understanding. The time has passed when it can be seen merely in terms of moral disapproval. A man who is an alcoholic is in the grip of forces well outside his control.
It is at this point that I would disagree with Senator Hanafin. I would agree with everything else he said, but he seems to regard hospitalisation as not important. It is of the utmost importance. Most recovered alcoholics, I would say without fear of contradiction, mark the moment of their recovery during some bout of hospitalisation because it creates the condition by which they can, in that rather macabre phrase, be dried out. They can overcome the horrendous withdrawal symptoms which are the result of extreme throes of the disease and it is fair of course that these admirable organisations like Al-Anon and Alcoholics Anonymous come into play.
It is admitted by Alcoholics Anonymous that at the moment of the nadir of the man's whole life it is possible to talk to him about his problem. You cannot talk to him about his problem  when he is in a pub, but you can when he is recovering in hospital. It is there that many an alcoholic has found not only the medical aids and supports to get an insight into his own problem but it is there that he has been given the succour and support and continuing support of his fellow alcoholics who have recovered. Therefore, I would support Senator West in urging that this most knowledgeable body of opinion and insight in the world on the subject, Alcoholics Anonymous, should be consulted at every stage in the expenditure of this money.
It is a national problem in Ireland. That is a thing we have to face. It is rather humiliating to have to face it. There is an old statement by Chesterton who said:
Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine
There is always laughter and good red wine.
At least I have always found it so, Benedicamus domino.”
But alas, the Catholic sun shines too on 95 per cent of the population of Ireland and there is a good deal of laughter and reasonably good black stout. But it does not always produce laughter or good cheer or all the positive effects that drink should produce. Very often it produces the direct opposite, squalor, shiftiness, cruelty, irresponsibility, humiliation.
It is a curious thing and it is a fact that we have to face, and this again is one of the reasons for welcoming the Bill, that in this country very little public money has been expended on the diagnosis and research and treatment of a disease to which the Irishman seems to be curiously prone. It seems to me Senator Hanafin's speech had too much confidence about the knowledge of the disease. Nobody knows much about this disease. Very little indeed is known about it. It may be chemical. Obviously there is a kind of chemical imbalance. There is some kind of psychological compulsion involved in it. But they are very mysteriously mixed within the psyche of the alcoholic which will take a lot of strenuous research to sort this out. It will probably never be possible to show why Italians, who have probably the best vintages in the world and  a great abundance of them cheap, have virtually no alcoholic problem whereas their traditionally Catholic sunshine neighbours, the French, have a very acute problem. And why when if you move further north into the hyperbolean region, passing Ireland and moving towards Scandinavia, that alcoholism seems to take on there an even more macabre and terrible posture. In other words, it seems to be related in some way to national temperaments: it seems to be related to climate, to the availability of drink, to a lot of things; but basically the problem of alcoholism is one large and challenging question mark and the more we do about it the better and in many senses we are in a better position than most countries to engage in this kind of research.
Research surveys have been carried out in America and shown that our ethnic group in America, for instance, is the most vulnerable of all to the disease of alcohol. The Spanish and the Italians can take it or leave it, by and large, as a race. Apparently we cannot. Therefore, I should like to support the Bill in that respect but particularly to support it in terms of that small section which has to do in the Minister's speech with the situation regarding prisoners.
Our total failure in this respect, our blindness in this respect, could not be better dramatised than by the fact that our prisoners in Mountjoy up to very recently, and it may still be the case—I am sure the Minister can enlighten me positively or negatively on the matter— were out of Mountjoy prison at 6 o'clock in the morning or around that time when they had served their sentences, out on to the grey streets of Dublin. There was only one haven for them in Dublin and that was the market pubs and it was a very common pattern that people who had been in there suffering all the deprivation of home and family, maybe with an alcoholic predisposition in the beginning, to scamper for this sanctuary, this haven of comfort in Dublin. I know many representations were made to the authorities in Mountjoy about this but they refused to respond not because they meant any illwill but because they could not see that releasing prisoners at that time was giving them an absolute invitation to  get back into that terrible cycle of self-destruction which is involved for the alcoholic—in other words, putting him right back into that circuit instead of trying to break that circuit. I would be interested to know from the Minister when he is replying whether that rather purblind attitude is still there.
This has to be faced and I am glad the Minister is facing it. It is a problem of national proportions. There is no doubt that alcohol in our society is frustrating the creative drives, the drives of ambition, the drives for industry and work, indeed the sexual drives of some of the most brilliant and most productive of our young generation. Again, this may have something to do with the rampant hedonism which is let loose in the world today where every television station that you switch on or every glossy magazine that you open will present you with a rather unholy conjunction of sex glamour and alcoholism side by side which is a kind of debasing of human values in the whole thing. The subliminal onslaught of this kind of advertising on the young is dangerour and pernicious and the Minister for Justice could take to his heart some of the many suggestions made by Senators earlier on with regard at least to the glamorisation of drink on television. He will not be able to control it, of course, if BBC 1 are given the freedom of the air, but that is neither here nor there. At least as far as the home service is concerned he could do something about that.
Mr. Halligan Mr. Halligan
Mr. Halligan: BBC has no advertising.
Dr. Martin Dr. Martin
Dr. Martin: With these remarks I should like to extend to the Bill my absolute, wholehearted and enthusiastic welcome.
Cáit Uí Eachthéirn Cáit Uí Eachthéirn
Cáit Uí Eachthéirn: Is mian liom fáilte a chur roimh an mBille seo agus má éiríonn leis fiú dosaen duine a shábháil ó ghalar na díghe is fiú an Bille seo a rith gan mórán moille. I welcome the Bill and I wish to say that its purpose is most praiseworthy and, as I said in Irish, if it succeeds in rescuing even a dozen from the tragedy of alcoholism it will have served a very useful purpose indeed. Many Senators  have referred to the glamorisation of drink on television and at our many festivals, either cultural or otherwise, and this glamorisation has certainly been one of the items which has led many of our young people to take to drinking. Perhaps some of this money could be used to counteract this advertising at festivals and, mostly, on television.
Something I should like, as Senator Walsh has said, to bring to the notice of the Minister is the sale of alcoholic drinks on off-licence premises. Research groups should examine this very seriously, because the sale of drink on those premises is a blessing in disguise for very young people, not even teenagers, and, indeed, for private drinkers. I would also ask the Minister to alert the research group to the smart alecs in our society who lace drinks for Pioneers and teetotallers. This is a despicable and cowardly act and, in many cases, it has been one of the stepping stones for young people to the taking of alcoholic drink because they are quite unaware that their drinks have been laced.
Many Senators have referred to the number of man-hours lost and the inefficient work, and there is no point in my going into those points again. I agree with Senator West that Pioneers should frequent our public houses more often than they now do and prove that they are not places to be denounced and that a Pioneer can relax and enjoy himself in the atmosphere of a public house just as well as the person taking alcoholic drink. As he said, they may even act as a leavening in that atmosphere.
Senators have also referred to the “rounds system”. I do not know if there is any way we can break that system. The present price of drink is certainly breaking it: at least it is cutting down on the number of lads that group together for a round. I am sure that if we have a budget in a week's time that might write finis to many of the rounds.
Mr. Cooney Mr. Cooney
Mr. Cooney: Does the Senator approve of it?
Cáit Uí Eachthéirn Cáit Uí Eachthéirn
Cáit Uí Eachthéirn: I should like to congratulate the great work done by Alcoholics Anonymous. As Senator  Hanafin said, what we need most in this country is an educated public, to educate our people into social drinking and to know just when they have taken enough. We have heard the sordid details of the crimes committed because of alcoholism and the suffering that is caused to so many families.
I do not know if there is enough notice taken of drunken drivers or if there is anything more that can be done to get through to those people who take charge of a car when they have too much drink taken. I welcome the Bill and I wish the research group every success.
Mr. Connolly Mr. Connolly
Mr. Connolly: I shall make a brief contribution to the debate. All Senators so far have welcomed the Bill and have shown support for the Minister in introducing this Bill. They should temper their support for the Minister with sympathy for him in attempting to tackle a problem of the gigantic dimensions of the drink problem in Ireland with such a ridiculously small sum of £145,000 or even if we add to that whatever other resources are available from the Social Welfare Department or any other Department in attempting to combat this very difficult situation in Ireland. With this very restricted amount at his disposal it would appear that we are setting up the Minister as a Don Quixote charging against the windmills of a highly influential trade and we must remember the dimensions of the problem and the powerful influence that the trade has on every aspect of Irish life and more particularly on the political aspects of Irish life.
If we are really serious and believe some form of action is necessary to relieve this country of the terrible losses we suffer socially economically and otherwise through drunkenness, then we should arm the Minister with a much more superior weapon to try out the whole question of taking the correct procedure to tackle this problem. Here, our method is extremely restricted. I hope the Minister, though he has not said so specifically in his opening remarks, will include among the prisoners who are going to volunteer or have already volunteered for this research a fair proportion of female prisoners who should be given the opportunity of  relating their experiences to the problem.
It is also necessary, if this Bill is to be of real value to the Irish economy, that juvenile delinquent prisoners should also be given a chance of having their experiences related to the work of this research body. Further than that, the Minister, if he can, should, maybe not under this Bill, but by other means flowing from the work done under it, should take steps to follow up the work done by the research committee. The prisoners who are in our jails at present may assist the scientific research committee but we want to know—this is the crunch of the whole subject—how they will be affected by whatever recommendations are made in the following year or maybe in quarterly periods following their release from the prison sentence. If that is not done it is merely a waste of time and money on the part of the research committee because anyone who has some experience of this method of researching knows quite well that those who will give their own evidence and experience are apt, when they are prisoners, to view these matters in a very restrictive manner. They speak not as free men, women or free juveniles but as prisoners. The fact that they are in prison motivates a great deal of what they will say. I am sure the experienced people, who are employed by the scientific research committee, will understand this and give a certain weighting factor to the various experiences and the record of these experiences that are put at their disposal.
When the prisoner becomes a free man he may think in different terms and his actions may be based on different motives than when he was giving his original evidence and experience to the committee. Therefore, it is very important for the success of this initially very feeble attempt—it is not in any way a criticism of the Minister that he has such small funds at his disposal or that he cannot at the moment enlarge upon the scope of his action—that there should be some method by which the Seanad will view the Bill and call for reports in the following months or the following quarters after the completion of it to see how the prisoners who have been under scrutiny will act or react  after their release and after their incorporation into the everyday world we know. The Minister should be congratulated for doing this, even though it is a humble beginning. We should support the Bill in all its contexts and we should endeavour to take greater and more decisive steps in the future to try to conquer the very serious effect of alcoholism in Ireland.
Mr. Brennan Mr. Brennan
Mr. Brennan: I do not intend to be very long, because I agree with practically everything that has been said. As far as I can see the Minister's thinking on this is in keeping with his predecessor which was, in the main, if I judge rightly, that after stocktaking, which we usually refer to in the ordinary course of business, it was found we had too many licensed premises. With that in mind he did exactly what this Minister has done and was reasonably successful. I am glad that he did not fall into the trap that he could allocate this money for the purchasing of redundant licences, let it be six-day or wine licences, and that he has devoted the money that is available to him for what he states in his opening speech.
A lot has been said about Alcoholics Anonymous. It appears to me, while I am not being discourteous or sarcastic, that it is like the child who goes down the street and steals a loaf of bread or a packet of cigarettes who is promptly taken to court and sent to wherever a justice may decide. If the better-off person steals a fur coat and goes into court and somebody says “this lady is a kleptomaniac” she gets off free. I would like to refer to this as excessive drinking. It is not unknown to the House or, in fact, to the legal profession, that one of the best cases one could make in court would be to say, if one had an accident, that you were under the influence of alcoholic beverage of one description or another. I would not like my heart to run away with my head over Alcoholics Anonymous. They are doing marvellous work and I congratulate them. I also congratulate the Minister on making available whatever funds are at his disposal. I agree with that. Nevertheless, we have to be sensible in a lot of these things.
I buy drink, I sell it, I drink it and I even drink what other people buy, but I  would prefer to hear people say that they would welcome shorter drinking hours. As the owner of a licenced premises, I think the licenced hours are much too long but none of us has the guts to face up to it and tell that to the people who are drinking to excess. Does anyone mean to tell me that it takes from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on a Sunday to get sufficient to put you asleep so that you can rest contented? I would welcome much more supervision of the licenced premises. It is well known at certain places that you can go in at any time of the night and you can remain there to any time in the morning. Nobody need tell me that they are not aware of it. However, the Minister cannot be at every garda's elbow and we cannot expect him to. Enough has been said about that. I welcome the Bill as it is presented. It is in keeping with what his predecessors would accept.
Mr. Codd Mr. Codd
Mr. Codd: I would like to welcome the Bill where money is being allotted for diagnosing and treating this disease of alcoholism. This is a very serious disease. I am glad that it has been recognised in recent years as a disease. For too long too many people looked on the alcoholic as a down and out, somebody lying in the gutter or the side of the ditch. That is not the case. We have alcoholics in all walks of life. I am glad to see that people are realising that it is a serious disease, one that cannot be cured but one that can be arrested. If he tackles the problem an alcoholic can live a normal life, not like with other diseases, which are fatal. It is a disease that progresses even when the alcoholic is not drinking.
I am not opposed to drink in any way because I think it is great to take a drink, a social drink. For anyone who can take a drink it gives great contentment, happiness and enjoyment. It is a grand thing but when drink is abused by the heavy drinker or by the person who has this disease something should be done about it. We know the hardship that is caused in many homes, broken marriages, broken families, loss of work.
The Minister has decided to have prisoners treated. I belive that many of those in prison today are there because of drink, that drink has caused  them to steal, rob or cause the deaths of other people. For a suffering alcoholic who continues drinking and who is not prepared to come to grips with his problem there are only three things than can happen to him—wind up in jail, wind up in a mental hospital for the rest of his life or, if he is lucky, to die.
I would like to see special units added to some of our mental hospitals for the treatment of this disease. The only thing they can do is to dry a person out. These units are needed and can be a great help to the alcoholics. In these hospitals it can be brought home to the alcoholic that he has a disease. People are slow to admit that they are alcoholics because there is a stigma attached to this. They are not prepared to admit it and come to grips with it. In the hospitals they can be made realise that they are suffering from a disease.
As Senator Hanafin said, it is up to the alcoholic himself. He must realise he has a problem. He must be prepared to do something about it. There are different agencies in the country who are prepared to help the alcoholic if he is prepared to help himself. With the number of young people who are drinking today this will become a greater problem in the years ahead. It is possible that people can drink away all their lifetime and never become alcoholics. Others, due to something lacking in their system become alcoholics very quickly, while for some it takes years. We have different types of alcoholics. Some can become alcoholics when they take their first drink. Others are periodic alcoholics, whose periods of sobriety become shorter and whose periods of drinking become longer. I am glad to see that something is being done about this. Like Senator Hanafin, I was not aware that this Bill was coming before the House. I would like to have had something prepared on it. I welcome the Bill and I thank the Minister for having this problem tackled.
Mr. Dolan Mr. Dolan
Mr. Dolan: I want to say that I welcome the Bill and I am glad that the money is being donated to the drink related project. Much has been said during the debate about the evils of alcoholism and drink and the various problems that flow from it. It is only fair for us to recognise that public  houses all over the country have been providing a service for the community. They have done a good job down through the years. People from rural Ireland going into a town had nowhere else to go and stay in comfort if it was a bad day. As a rule there were no halls, no community centres or places where the people could go and feel that they had a right to be present.
The fault may have been that there were too many of them because licences were given all over the country. In the Northern part of the country I am told that six-day licences were provided in most cases and in the south of Ireland they were mostly seven-day licences. This has been changed now and there is a fund available. I am glad that the Minister is devoting this fund to try to cure some of the evils that flow from excessive drinking. The people need to be educated in this matter. We need never think that we will abolish drinking in this country because there is a vast employment potential in this industry. I often felt that if we were able to sell more of our Irish made drink abroad and at home it would be a great benefit to relieving the unemployment situation in this country down the years. In that way we would help the economic arm as well as doing something to provide our people with a decent standard of living.
At present our advertising on television glamorises the use of alcohol. The same happens at functions and so on. Advertising, especially in relation to drinking, is overdone. They may have funds at their disposal for advertising and they use it in this way. It is not our function here to say what Telefís Éireann should do and it would cut down on the revenue if there were no advertisements. Those people who manufacture drink in this country and make their living by it have some responsibility in helping to augment this very small fund that is at the disposal of the Minister. We would all like to see him succeeding in this worthwhile project. Our young people of today are reasonable, responsible people. While it may be said that many of them congregate in public houses and so on we may in future be faced with a much greater problem than drink, that is drugs.
 Education is tremendously important in relation to drugs especially in post primary schools. There is a danger always in places such as these that people may become acquainted with drugs. Some cases have come to light where they have come into this country and are in use. This is a far more serious problem than drink. Perhaps if the Minister had a bigger fund part of it could be devoted to providing some type of educational programmes directed specifically at the youth and those who might be inclined to take drugs. The example that is given in the family is very important. Parents, in particular, have a very definite responsibility in ensuring moderation so far as drink is concerned. We must realise that drink is there. It is fashionable in golf clubs, hotels, public houses and at functions.
Another factor that often led to drunkenness is that in the past it was very difficult for a man who had taken a few drinks to get a meal conveniently. At present, in some of the larger hotels they will not supply a meal between certain hours. If the person who is travelling has to wait two or three hours for a meal he may partake of too much drink while waiting and find himself charged for being drunk in charge of a car. These are things we have not much control over but they are factors in this very important matter. We need to be educated in this matter. We should cut down on the advertising of drink and give good example in the homes.
Senator Hanafin brought something to light that I was not aware of—it may be some scientific or medical matter—that there are people who could be alcoholics who never took an intoxicating drink in their lives. That was a revelation to me because I did not know such a situation existed. If this was found out at an early stage in a person's life, by blood tests or otherwise, it may be possible to screen them in some way and thus prevent them from becoming alcoholics. They could be warned that if they took alcoholic drink eventually they could become alcoholic.
Mr. Russell Mr. Russell
Mr. Russell: I want to say a very few words on this Bill. As Senator Dolan rightly said the public house in Ireland  occupies a position different to any other country in the world. It is a local institution. The fact that almost all the public houses in this country are owned by a single proprietor rather than vast distilling or brewing corporations puts it in a different category to any other country. The local publican is a guide, philosopher and friend particularly in a rural community. We have got to take that into consideration when we are rightly concerned about what appears to be an excessive amount of drinking in our country at the present time. An expenditure of £4 million a week on drink sounds an enormous sum in a tiny country of approximately 3 million people. In looking at this figure we must take a realistic view of it.
First of all, there is a change in the type of drinking and the people who are drinking. Long ago when drink was cheap, we lived in far easier times and the tempo of life was far slower than today it was nothing unusual for the man of the house to go off on a beer up for two or three weeks, after which he would recover and go back to his normal vocation in life. That type of drinking is gone by the board. Instead we have a lot more drinking ladies and, very sadly, young people, who seem to have the necessary funds to spend on very expensive liquor.
I began my drinking career with a pint of stout. Nowadays it is some of the more fancy drinks, for example vodka and white. These seem to appeal more to the younger generation. However, we have got to live with the times. My chief reason for speaking was to make an appeal, on behalf of a certain organisation, that is doing wonderful work amongst what might be called the end product of excessive drinking, I refer to the Simon Community. They have branches in most of the cities and the larger towns. They do an enormous amount of wonderful human work without any great recognition from the public and certainly without any funds. I speak with a knowledge of the work they are doing in my own native city of Limerick. They are having extreme difficulty in getting premises. Naturally enough there is considerable opposition amongst the local communities to  having a Simon Community hostel or house situated in the area. They have been described as menaces, nuisances and harmless. I suppose, in a way, they are all three. They are a section of society that pinpoint what can happen when excessive drinking is indulged in by a man.
Recently a report was produced by the Mid Western Health Board in Limerick as to what should be done for this unfortunate section of the community. It is quite a small section. In the city of Limerick there are not more than 50 involved and some of these are outsiders. It was divided into three categories—hostel accommodation, a rehabilitation unit and then rehousing in the normal corporation or council housing estates. The committee were firmly in favour of a rehabilitation unit but it was pointed out that it would be years before such a unit could be provided, even if it were only for 20 to 25 men. I cannot think of any better use that at least portion of this accumulated fund of £145,000 might be put to. In each of the larger urban centres one rehabilitation unit should be provided. It is the only hope of bringing these men back from a hopeless existence into something approaching a normal way of life. I hope that the Minister might pass on that suggestion to his colleague, the Minister for Finance.
The Minister said that the 1962 Act provided that holders of restricted licences could convert them into full seven-day licences on a payment of £200 to the Revenue Commissioners. I suggest that a passage of 13 years has reduced the value of £200 very substantially. Could that figure not be increased? Over half the number of licensed houses that could convert have done so. There is an attraction for at least part of the remaining 650 or 700 to convert. I suggest to the Minister that it would not be out of the way to increase that £200 to something relating to the depreciation of the value of money over that period.
I would like to welcome the introduction of this Bill. If we cannot effectively cure alcoholism as most of us would like to do, the best thing we can do is to ensure that as much as possible of the funds that accumulate from the  drinking of alcohol, directly or indirectly, should be provided for rehabilitation or even discouraging people, who obviously should not drink, from drinking.
Minister for Justice (Mr. Cooney) Patrick M. Cooney
Minister for Justice (Mr. Cooney): I would like to thank Senators for the reception they have given this Bill and to deal with the points raised in the course of the debate. Senators generally welcomed the Bill, but Senator Connolly was an exception. He felt he had to offer me sympathy. His sympathy was based on the fact that the amount that is being provided for fighting alcoholism was so pathetically small. Other Senators also commented on the size of the fund proposed by the Bill. Of course, that was a misconception of the purpose of the Bill. The Bill is not primarily designed to provide the funds to fight alcoholism. It is designed to dispose of a fund which has been lying more or less idle since it was accumulated in the 1960s. It was decided that because this fund consisted of fees paid to convert restricted licences into full licences it should be used for a drink-related project.
I considered, after consultation with my colleagues, that an appropriate subject would be the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of alcoholism. It is in that connection that the subject of alcoholism comes to be mentioned in this Bill. It is not primarily a Bill designed to fight alcoholism. It is primarily designed to dispose of the fund in question.
Senator Russell drew attention to the sact that the conversion price fixed in the fixties was a mere £200 and suggested that this might be increased. What he does not appear to realise is that the right to convert was for a restricted period of three years only. That right expired in the 1960s. There are still a number of restricted licences in the country, approximately 395. I have had representations recently, gathering momentum, that the right should be given again to these people to convert their licences into full licences. It was urged on mei n the debate in the other House, and it is something that I am examining seriously.
I can reassure Senator Russell that if  the examination comes down in favour of restoring the right to conversion the premium will be vastly different from that which was available in the sixties and will probably take account of the changing value of money and also of the attractiveness of the right being given. I have no doubt we will have another debate then as to how that fund is to be disposed of.
To those Senators who criticised the size of the fund—Senator Connolly, Senator Martin and Senator Mary Walsh—the fund in relation to alcoholism is incidental to the main purpose of the Bill, which is to dispose of the fund, and the main use is for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of alcoholism. The debate ranged principally over the subject of alcoholism. Senator Lenihan, in opening the debate for the Opposition, criticised what he termed the hypocritical situation of providing money for this purpose and, at the same time, permitting on State television the advertising of drink. I suppose there is a certain inconsistency here but I would not go so far as to categorise it as national hypocrisy.
He contrasted this situation with the steps taken by our predecessors—the Government of which he was a member —in relation to tobacco advertising when it was banned from television. Of course, there was an inconsistency there too because it was allowed to continue to flourish in newspapers and magazines. Written advertising of tobacco has not been prohibited and if complete consistency was to be applied that too should have been banned.
Again, there is inherently a difference between drink advertising and tobacco advertising. It is now scientifically established that cigareete smoking is inherently dangerous; taking drink is not inherently dangerous. That is a distinction that can be made. I am not arguing against the point he makes, because of the incidence of alcoholism in our society and the tremendous harm that it does. Senator Martin eloquently went over the whole range of damage which it does to the individual in society, the family, and his work. Having regard to the potential harm of alcoholism, the total prohibition of its  advertising might have to be considered. The advertising is, of course, of beer only; advertising of liquor is prohibited. I take Senator Lenihan's point that there is a certain inconsistency there and it is something that will have to be examined in due course.
The first research project under this Bill is being undertaken by the Irish National Council on Alcoholism in relation to the presence of alcoholism as a factor in crime. The research will be among the prisoners. This was dealt with by many Senators. Senator West was worried as to whether the research programme would be fully professional. I can assure him, happily, that it will be fully professional. It will be under the joint direction of two psychiatrists of the Eastern Health Board and will be conducted by a psychiatrist of senior registrar grade who will have a research assistant, interviewer and three specialist interviewers to carry out the research, which will take place over a period of 15 months. It will be researched in great depth and will be completely scientific in its approach and assessment.
The bibliography which will be used in the research is quite extensive but none of it relates to Irish problems. Much of it relates to crime and drinking in the UK, on the continent and in the United States. It is time that we did some research to establish the presence of alcoholism as a factor or non-factor among our prisoners and as a cause of crime.
This project is a pet project of mine because of my responsibility, as Minister for Justice, for the prisons. One of the aspects of the prisons which concerns me is the distressingly high rate of recidivism among our prisoners. I always felt intuitively, and from observation made when practising criminal law, that drink was a pretty constant factor in crime. This was confirmed by an experiment carried out by a district justice in the midlands who, from his vantage point, could see over a very wide number and variety of cases coming before him the frequency with which drink was mentioned by the prosecution, by the defence, or by the defendant, as being a factor in having him  before the court. That justice had an educational programme devised to which he directed people who came before him and raised drink as a defence or an excuse. This programme was of considerable assistance and benefit. His observations and findings, plus my own observations, led me to suggest that this might be an ideal initial project for this fund. That is why this project of research among our prisoners has been undertaken. It will be undertaken by the Irish National Council on Alcoholism which is a highly organised body and the project will be completely and thoroughly professional. Of course, it will be completely confidential.
Some Senators were worried about the idea of prisoners being a captive audience from the point of view of participating in such a project. There will be no question of that, because its success depends on voluntary cooperation. It will only be done with the assistance of the prisoners who voluntarily want to assist.
To reassure Senators Ferris and Mary Walsh, the amount of the fund being provided for this project is the amount which the Irish National Council on Alcoholism say the research project requires. They say it is adequate for their needs to sustain this research over its life which they estimate will take 15 months.
Senator Connolly was worried that the findings of the research would be forgotten about and that there would be no follow up. I can assure him that it is not an academic exercise as such we are undertaking; it is a real life project, and that the findings will be followed up. Part of the brief of the research is to make recommendations for the prevention of alcoholism among prisoners if they find this as a factor in crime.
As to future projects on which to spend the money these will be devised by the Minister for Health, in consultation with myself. Of course, in devising projects we will, naturally, go to people who have wide experience in this field. The Irish National Council on Alcoholism must be the prime source of assistance in this area and, through them, and separately and independently of them, there is Alcoholics Anonymous. This organisation has been deservedly  praised by Senators Hanafin and Martin and by Senator Aherne. It is an association which has done an immense amount of good for those with drink problems and for alcoholics. It deserves to be supported and sustained. The knowledge it can bring to this subject will be appreciated and availed of. Senator Russell mentioned that the project might be able to assist the Simon Community. I will draw the attention of the Minister for Health to that to see if their good work could be assisted by these funds too.
Senator Brennan, and others, spoke about the question of hours. Senator Brennan thought the hours available for drinking are too long and that if a person wanted to consume an adequacy of drink, shorter opening hours would be sufficient. If I might quote from the late lamented Myles na Gopaleen, in a facetious passage on the question of hours he said:
My idea is to have the hours altered so that public houses would be permitted to open only between 2 and 5 in the morning. This means that if you are a drinking man you will have to be in earnest about it.
It goes to show that there are various views as to what are the best hours for drinking.
The question of licensing hours is under examination at the moment. I adverted to this in the other House where some suggestions were made for changing the hours. There are nearly as many views on what the hours should be as there are groups connected with the liquor licensing trade, and that is a fair number. I was disturbed to hear Senator Brennan allege that licensing hours are not observed and that there are serious and continuing breaches of them. I would regret that this should be so, and I ask Senators who might be aware of such situations to draw my attention, or the attention of the local Garda, to it. They would be keen to ensure that such breaches of the law would not take place. It is a matter of some concern to me to ensure that the licensing hours are observed and, generally speaking, they are. If there are breaches of the law here and there, the local gardaí would be glad to have  information concerning them, so that they can enforce the law.
Senator Codd emphasised the importance of recognising alcoholism as a disease. It is so recognised in our society but there is still a certain amount of social antipathy about it, and it is not completely recognised as a disease yet.
Senator Hanafin thought that a person is born an alcoholic; this might be the correct view if one were to subscribe to the doctrine of predestination, but I do not know if doctors altogether agree with this view. One of the difficulties of the disease is to establish the causes of it. When they have been established, treatment can be devised to provide a cure for those suffering from it. Preventive measures can be taken to ensure that those with leanings towards alcoholism can be saved.
Senator Martin asked a specific question concerning the time of release of prisoners from our jails. He was under the impression that up to recently, or even now, they might be released at about 6 o'clock in the morning and that all they could do was head for the market pubs, the only places open in the city at that time. They would start drinking immediately and take the first steps on a road back to prison. Prisoners are not released at that hour of the morning. I have no information that they were ever released at that early hour.
Up to about three years ago prisoners were called at 7 a.m. and had breakfast at about 7.30. Prisoners were free to go after that and some prisoners left at that time. Nowadays, they are unlocked at 8 a.m. and breakfast is at 8.30. A prisoner may go immediately after he has had his breakfast and changed his clothes. It is usually after 8.30 a.m. when prisoners leave our jails on discharge. Sometimes, if a prisoner has to travel to the country and get an early train, he will be released earlier, but Senator Martin can be reassured that there is no question of prisoners being put on the streets at 6 a.m. when there is no place to go except to a market pub.
As I stated previously, the purpose of the Bill is to dispose of the comparatively small fund which is available and which has being lying more or less idle  for too long. The purpose of the Bill is not to fight alcoholism. People who read the Bill as such were right in their criticism that the fund would be too small for such a purpose because that is a very big fight indeed. The purpose of the Bill is to dispose of the fund and it is incidental that alcoholism is mentioned, which is because the fund is to be used in the fight against alcoholism. I have no doubt that in time to come further funds will become available from other sources. As I indicated in my opening speech, a sum in excess of £100,000 has been spent in the last year or 18 months by the Department of Health and the health boards in this same fight. I have no doubt that other funds will continue to be made available.
I thank Senators for their welcome for the Bill and I have no doubt that the money to be spent in this way will be well spent and will be of great benefit to our society.
Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining Stages today.
Bill put through Committee, reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.
Mr. M.J. O'Higgins Mr. M.J. O'Higgins
Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: It was suggested that we would break for tea at 5.30 p.m. and it does not seem worth starting the other Bill now. I suggest we break now until 7.30 p.m.
Business suspended at 5.20 p.m. and resumed at 7.30 p.m.
Seanad Éireann 81 Restricted Licences Conversion Fund Bill, 1975: Second and Subsequent Stages.