Attorney general to examine controversial alcohol bill

A controversial alcohol bill has stalled yet again after a number of legal issues were uncovered.

Attorney general to examine controversial alcohol bill

The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, which includes the introduction of “booze curtains”, has sparked fury both among politicians and businesses, and has already been delayed.

It has now been referred to the attorney general who is examining a number of legal difficulties.

It is understood the issues do not relate to the introduction of structural separations in shops where alcohol is sold but a number of other elements.

Separately, officials in the Department of Health are also examining how they can adjust section 20 of the bill, which would require shops to erect barriers to shield alcohol from public view, following a heated debate in the Seanad.

Smaller retail store owners claimed the introduction of such booze curtain would have a massive impact on business.

Marcella Corcoran-Kennedy, the junior health minister, has come under fire from her colleagues at a Fine Gael meeting.

Such was the objection to elements of the bill, which would change covers for all sale, advertisement, and price of alcohol, that a debate on it was adjourned in the Seanad last October and has yet to be resumed.

A number of Fine Gael senators blasted proposals contained in the bill, claiming it could impact on businesses along the border, would put pressure on small businesses, and could see young people having to show identification before buying clothing bearing alcoholic logos.

Senator Tim Lombard, who strongly objected to parts of the bill when it came before the Seanad, said he hoped the department would tackle some of the more controversial elements of the bill.

“It’s an important piece of legislation so I would hope that it comes back from the attorney general as soon as possible and doesn’t sit on a desk for six to eight months,” he said.

“We would still hope that it would come back for debate so it can go through the Dáil and the Seanad during this term.

“I would welcome the fact the department is looking at the bill and that common sense would prevail,” he said.

A spokeswoman for Ms Corcoran-Kennedy said: “The Department of Health is in regular contact with the Office of the Attorney General in relation to the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill — this engagement is similar to the process that takes place when any piece of legislation is progressing through the Oireachtas.”

The bill would also introduce minimum unit pricing which senators said could impact on businesses in the border region.

The Seanad also heard that a ban on alcoholic logos on children’s clothes — also contained in the bill — would be extremely hard to police.

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