Junior Business Minister calls for three-week closure of off-licences

JUNIOR Business Minister Robert Troy has told a private Fianna Fáil meeting that off-licences should be closed for three weeks amid concerns over the spread of Covid-19.

His proposal goes further than Government plans to significantly reduced their opening hours in a bid to clamp down on house parties and large social gatherings.

The issue was discussed at Fianna Fáil’s parliamentary party meeting this evening.

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Sources said that Longford-Westmeath TD Mr Troy said off-licences should be closed outright for three weeks.

Dara Calleary did not go as far but said there needs to be a curtailment of discounting and special offers on alcohol in supermarkets.

The Mayo TD is said to have pointed out that it’s hard for small businesses to close while supermarkets engage in the practice.

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Dublin South-West’s John Lahart made similar comments about the need to explore ways to reduce off-sales of alcohol including in supermarkets.

Sligo-Leitrim TD Marc MacSharry said he was totally against closing off-licences and called for the Government to scale up capacity in ICU and acute hospitals through using private hospitals.

Kildare North TD James Lawless said the Government needs to have a plan for Christmas and that people need to know sooner rather than later as to what will be safe and permissible, including whether family will be allowed home from abroad and whether get togethers in private houses will be allowed.

Mr Lawless said that whatever the rules are it was better to get it out now so people can plan ahead.

Longford-Westmeath TD Joe Flaherty called for bookmakers to close.

Mr Flaherty said people congregating in bookmakers’ premises had become an issue for staff working there.

He claimed customers have had scant regard for public health and social distancing and pointed out that bookmakers are licenced premises and this had been overlooked in the move to Level 3.

Proposals to restrict off-licence opening hours were discussed at Monday’s Cabinet meeting where ministers agreed to impose Level 3 restrictions on the entire country.

Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys was the first to raise the issue and was supported by Justice Minister Helen McEntee and Minister of State for Roads Hildegarde Naughton.

Ms Humphreys’ Monaghan constituency has seen a recent spike in Covid-19 and Ms Naughton is a Galway minister where a large gathering of students drinking in the city recently gained national headlines. The minister was furious about the street party in the Spanish Arch and said something should be done about the role off-licences play in such events.

It was noted at the meeting that reducing off-licence opening hours may also help pubs and restaurants as people may be more likely to go to regulated premises rather than house parties.

At Fine Gael’s parliamentary party meeting on Tuesday junior minister Patrick O’Donovan called on the Government to crackdown on off-licences and what he said was the “uncontrolled consumption and sale of alcohol”.

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