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Written Answers. - Licensing Laws.

Thursday, 17 October 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 555 No. 4

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 22. Ms Burton Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton  asked the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell  his plans to review pub and club opening hours, having regard to concerns among the public that the later closing times have led to an increase in street violence and crime; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18490/02]

Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. McDowell): Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell As Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, I have responsibility for the general policy on intoxicating liquor legislation. In my view, I consider it an over-simplification of a complex issue to suggest that later closing times have led to an increase in street violence.

The question of extended hours possibly leading to an increase in alcohol-related problems was discussed in the Dáil and Seanad debates leading up to enactment of the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 2000. As the Deputy may be aware, a subcommittee of the Joint Committee on Justice, Equality and Women's Rights completed a review of liquor licensing in 1998 and made a series of recommendations in relation to various aspects of the licensing code, including longer opening hours. In addition, extensive consultations took place with various interested parties prior to the passage of the 2000 Act at which the issue of extending opening hours was discussed.

[1136]On the subject of street violence and crime, I should like to refer to the extensive powers of the gardaí under the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act, 1994, to deal with late night drinking and disturbances. In addition, as the Deputy is probably aware, in June last, I reintroduced the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Bill, 2002, now on Second Stage in the Dáil. This legislation will, when enacted, give the gardaí significant additional powers in dealing with drunkenness and public disorder. The Commission on Liquor Licensing, which has the task of reviewing the liquor licensing system, dealt with the general question of trading hours in its second interim report published in July last. Their overall conclusion was that since a major reform of licensing hours was introduced as recently as July 2000, it would not be appropriate to make any recommendations for further changes at this stage. Incidentally, the commission said that the issue of trading hours was mentioned in surprisingly few of the submissions which it received as part of its public consultation exercise. The commission said however, that it would return to the issue of trading hours in its final report. I will, of course, carefully consider any recommendations that the commission may make in this area.


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