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TD claims HSE is 'harassing' pub punters over smoking area

SMOKERS are the victims of "harassment" by the Health Service Executive (HSE) in a well known pub, which is a favoured watering hole of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

The accusation is being made by Independent TD Finian McGrath, who is a regular in the northside Dublin pub and a smoker who uses the smoking shelter.

The Goose Tavern in Drumcondra, Dublin 9, has put a perspex roof above a four-walled area at the back of the pub, with a large gap at the top for air and smoke to circulate.

But the pub has been threatened with a court injunction by a HSE-employed environmental health officer if it does not remove the roof.

Mr McGrath said it was time for the HSE to be a "little bit more flexible", given the downturn in the economy.

"We have elements in the HSE who seem hell-bent on harassing smokers and small businesses in this country," he said.

The Goose is also frequented by Mr Ahern and his brother, former Fianna Fail TD Noel Ahern. However, neither of the Ahern brothers are smokers.

Mr McGrath had submitted a parliamentary question on the issue to Health Minister James Reilly, asking him not to remove the perspex shelter.

But the minister told him the HSE was responsible for enforcing the smoke-free-at-work legislation.

"Accordingly, it would be inappropriate for me to comment," he said.

Goose Tavern owner Niall Newman said he was concerned that removing the smoking shelter would further reduce his customer numbers.

"We're down at least 10pc on last year and the few customers that like a smoke are being turned out," he said.

The HSE would not discuss individual cases -- but said if an owner continued to permit smoking in contravention of the law, it could lead to a HSE officer recommending it be brought to court.

The fine for permitting smoking in an illegal outdoor smoking area is up to €3,000.

Irish Independent