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Saturday 30 August 2014

Splashing out for a party costs €200 more here than in North

Aideen Sheehan

Published 16/07/2014 | 02:30

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Gavin Keogh, Wines Direct, Mullingar, Co Westmeath. Photo: James Flynn/APX

BUYING drinks for a big party could cost you almost €200 more in the Republic than up North.

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The Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (DIGI) has warned that high excise is sending shoppers across the Border, with a single bottle of bubbly costing €3 more in the South and a bottle of vodka nearly €7 more expensive.

The price gap would add up to €199 if you were bulk-buying a typical basket of alcohol for a big event such as an engagement party, it said.

A basket of vodka, whiskey, lager, sparkling and regular wine would add up to €794 in Northern Ireland, compared with €993 in the Republic.

DIGI said its figures were based on a Revenue Commissioners price comparison in April, but using July exchange rates, which have seen the price gap widen. The group, which represents pubs, hotels, off-licences and drink suppliers, published its pre-budget submission urging the Government to reverse excise hikes which have made Irish alcohol prices the most expensive in Europe.

Mullingar wine seller Gavin Keogh said that shoppers had started to go back up North to buy alcohol, particularly for big events. "A huge part of our trade is supplying the wedding trade, so you don't want excise rates leading to prices that just encourage people to go North or over to Roscoff to buy for big events," he said.

Mr Keogh employs 32 people in his Wines Direct shops in Mullingar and Arnotts and also supplies restaurants and hotels, but said excise rates are a huge issue. His plans to open another shop had been scuppered a couple of years ago when there was a €1 budget excise hike per bottle of wine.

There were also ridiculous anomalies, with the excise on a bottle of prosecco with a 'mushroom top' you could pop twice as high as a bottle of prosecco with a normal top, he said.

More than 1,000 pubs have been forced to close since 2007, with customers assuming publicans are price-gouging when they pass on excise hikes, Padraig Cribben of the Vintners Federation of Ireland told the Oireachtas Finance Committee yesterday.

"Ireland is the most expensive country in Europe to buy alcohol, which has been identified by tourists in Failte Ireland research to be one of their chief concerns about coming back to the country," he said.

Excise did not tackle alcohol abuse, he said, as forcing publicans to charge high prices drove consumers to buy cheap alcohol in supermarkets and drink at home.

Irish Independent

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