‘Amateur hour’ as health minister's memo on takeaway pints pulled

‘Amateur hour’ as health minister's memo on takeaway pints pulled

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly arrives for a cabinet meeting at  Government Buildings yesterday. Mr Donnelly's plans for a ban on takeaway pints failed to gain support. Picture: PA

The hasty withdrawal of health minister Stephen Donnelly’s memorandum on outside drinking has been branded as “amateur hour” by his own colleagues. 

The memo, brought at the behest of Taoiseach Micheál Martin, was withdrawn amid stiff opposition from Fine Gael and the Green Party.

A Government spokeswoman said the decision to pull the memo was taken during a pre-Cabinet meeting between Mr Martin, Mr Donnelly, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan.

However, other Cabinet sources have said they were handed copies of the memorandum, but it was clear “it had no support” and was pulled.

On Monday night, an original plan for an outright ban on takeaway pints was shelved after a backbench revolt led by former minister Barry Cowen.

This is the second time Mr Donnelly has failed to get a memo passed Cabinet, after previous plans to give gardaí powers to break up house parties were rebuffed.

Mr Donnelly and Taoiseach Micheál Martin will meet the Garda Commissioner to discuss enforcement of Covid-19 regulations after the Government made its second reversal on the sale of takeaway alcohol.

The desire to clamp down on such gatherings came after Mr Martin said he was "annoyed" by videos on social media showing crowds drinking in both Cork and Dublin.

The focus will be put on enforcing existing bylaws in the nation's towns and cities where drinking outdoors is currently illegal.

Cabinet sources say that ministers believed that the measures would seem reactive and erode public buy-in to existing guidelines.

"There was some concern about punishing the people who are doing things right," one source said.

Arts minister Catherine Martin said that a full-scale ban would "not be bringing people with us".

Mr Donnelly said that he, Mr Martin and Justice Minister Helen McEntee would now meet Garda Commissioner Drew Harris. 

"We want to meet the Commissioner to see if gardaí feel comfortable with the powers and resources they have," he said.

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