Friday 17 November 2017

Alcohol is still cheaper in the North amid plans for minimum prices across island

Roisin Shortall
Roisin Shortall

Greg Harkin

The price of alcohol in the North is still cheaper than south of the Border - but the DUP's Health Minister has vowed to work with the Republic to end the difference.

An Irish Independent survey of Tesco stores in Donegal and Derry found many products still considerably cheaper in the North, despite a substantial decrease in the value of the euro in recent weeks.

However, Stormont Health Minister Jim Wells says he is backing an all-Ireland approach to new laws on Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) for alcohol.

"I welcome the decision by the Irish Government to proceed with Minimum Unit Pricing for alcohol," he told the Irish Independent.

"I announced my intention to bring forward MUP in Northern Ireland in December and I anticipate, subject to Executive agreement, launching a consultation on how MUP would be introduced in the near future."

He said however the North had to work with the Dublin administration on the new measures, saying health officials were already in close contact and working to synchronise any new rules.

"We have agreed to continue to work together on this issue and will work, as far as possible, to enact legislation within similar timescales," he said.

Mr Wells said there were 236 alcohol-related deaths in the North in 2013, with 12,000 related hospital admissions, costing the state €1.2bn.

However, the difficulty facing both health departments will be the exchange rates between the euro and sterling.

Even with the euro at just 75p yesterday, alcohol remains cheaper north of the Border.

In Tesco in Derry yesterday, consumers could buy 20 cans of Guinness for €26. The same money buys just 16 cans of the same draft beer in Tesco Letterkenny, a saving of a fifth.

Twenty 440ml cans of a leading cider brand in Derry - Strongbow - cost the equivalent of €15.60, or €1 for every 564mls. It was €13 for eight 500ml cans of Bulmers in Letterkenny, or €1 for 307mls.

The cheapest bottle of value-range red wine in Tesco Derry was €4.55 which was €2.60 cheaper than Tesco Letterkenny.

Carlsberg 440ml cans in Derry cost €10.71 for a box of 15. In Letterkenny, it cost €12 for just eight 500ml cans. It means €1 buys 616mls of the beer in the North and just 333mls in the Republic, making Carlsberg at Derry Tesco almost half the price.

Tesco in both stores sells its own 'Everyday Value' vodka and gin.

In Derry, this own-brand range of vodka was €13 for 70cl bottle, which was 99c cheaper than Letterkenny. The equivalent bottle of gin was €1.99 cheaper in Derry.

Yesterday, former junior health minister and Independent TD Róisín Shortall said Leo Varadkar's drink measures did not go far enough.

"Politicians have traditionally been very slow to tackle this issue. The alcohol industry is very powerful in this country and has very good access to a lot of senior politicians," Ms Shortall told RTE.

But there was strong support in principle for the Government initiative from Fianna Fáil health spokesman, Billy Kelleher.

"In general, I welcome Minister Varadkar's move and I hope it can be implemented soon and that it will produce results. I think all of us know that we are a nation with a tendency towards harmful binge drinking and there is a need to address this."

Irish Independent

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