Wednesday 23 August 2017

First look: 'Booze curtains' at centre of controversial Seanad debate

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

This is the first look at the so called ‘booze curtains’ currently at the centre of intense debate in the Seanad.

Minister of State for Health Promotion Marcella Corcoran Kennedy came under fire in the Seanad this afternoon over her proposals to introduce ‘structural separation’ in shops so that alcohol is not visible to customers.

The proposal is contained in the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill which is currently being debated at committee stage.

Our exclusive pictures show images supplied by the Department of Health which are aimed a illustrating how the new law will work in practice.

An illustration of the suggested 'booze curtains'
An illustration of the suggested 'booze curtains'

This includes covering bottles of wine with a curtain or building a ‘beer cave’ which acts as separate refrigerated area for alcohol.

Senators from all parties have been subjected to intense lobbying from small business owners who fear the impact the introduction of a booze curtain will have on their shops.

The proposed 'booze curtains'
The proposed 'booze curtains'

Alcohol abuse groups have also been urging senators to allow the legislation pass through the chamber.

One senator said the legislation will make people "feel like they are going to a peepshow when they are just buying a bottle wine".

The Department of Health briefing for senators warned that alcohol is “not an ordinary consumer product” but rather is “psychoactive substance with dependence producing properties”.

“The general availability of alcohol is an important indicator when assessing alcohol related harm,” it stated.

“The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill provides for restrictions of the display and advertisement of alcohol products in mixed trade retail outlets.

The aim is to reduce visibility, accessibility and availability of alcohol,” it added

In the Seanad, Fine Gael senator Paudie Coffey called on Ms Corcoran Kennedy to give a clear definition of what she meant by structural separation as the lack of clarity was leading to concern among small business owners.

The minister said she is asking business owners to visually separate alcohol form the visibility of children and young people.

She said she is not asking that alcohol be kept in an area of the shop which would be separate by a wall or door.

Ms Corcoran Kennedy clashed with Fianna Fail Seanad chief whip Diarmuid Wilson when she urged members to stop filibustering and allow the legislation to pass through the upper chamber quickly.

Mr Wilson said the minister should “respect” the members of the Seanad and allow every senator have their say on the bill if they wished. 

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