Nearly half of all off-licences targeted in a sting operation by gardaí in Cork City sold alcohol to minors.
According to Supt Con Cadogan, who is in charge of policing the Gurranabraher Garda District, which includes a large part of the northside of the city as well as Blarney and Ballincollig, gardaí carried out test purchases at 13 off-licences between last June and December and found that six of them readily sold alcohol to an underage person.
The minors were accompanied by a plainclothes detective on the operation and the breaches of the law were described by the senior garda as “quite frightening”.
He said a number of prosecutions were pending as a result of the garda investigation. Chief superintendents Gerard Dillane (Cork North Garda Division) and Tom Hayes (West Cork Garda Division) said it seemed that off-licences in the city were more likely to sell to minors than their counterparts in the county.
Chief Supt Dillane told a meeting of the Cork county joint policing committee in County Hall that test purchases in rural areas did not show nearly as many breaches. He said it was probably down to local off-licence owners personally knowing those who were coming into them, their families, and their ages.
Joint policing committee member Labour councillor Cathal Rasmussen asked the gardaí, in future, to provide the forum with statistics for the amount of alcohol they had confiscated from minors, saying that underage drinking is “a huge problem’’ in his town of Cobh.
Chief Supt Hayes said he would compile the figures.
Fianna Fáil councillor Daithi Ó Donnabháin said there was a similar with underage drinking problem in Ballincollig and apart from the antisocial aspect the tidy towns group “were blue in the face’’ from having to constantly remove large amounts of cans and broken beer bottles from the regional park.
Fine Gael TD David Stanton said he hoped the Government would be able to set minimum pricing on alcohol which would make it more difficult for minors to purchase drink.
Independent councillor Tim Collins drew the wrath of joint policing committee colleagues when he suggested drink-driving laws were too stringent. He said he knew a town in North Cork where there were once 32 pubs but were now six.
While he said he would not condone people driving with excessive amounts of alcohol, he knew of people who could drive quite sensibly with two or three pints and never had an accident.
“There’s no need for gardaí to raid pubs in my area as you won’t catch anyone in them,’’ he said.
Fine Gael TD Jerry Buttimer attacked his comments and Fine Gael councillor Kevin Murphy joined in, telling Mr Collins: “There might be people who can drive with that many pints, but let’s be quite clear about it, it’s illegal.’’
Chief Supt Dillane said the number of people detained for suspected drink driving in the Cork, Kerry, and Limerick areas was up 2% on last year and the most common offenders were in their 40s and 50s. The majority were men.
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