Healy-Rae opposes teen drink plan

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Independent Councillor and publican Danny Healy-Rae has strongly criticised a plan to use children to carry out test purchases of alcohol so gardaí can assess what bars, clubs and off-licences are selling drink to minors. He described the scheme as a “sting operation” that would make “spies and informers” of young people.

The Test Purchasing of Alcohol Scheme has been signed into law and is due to get under way next week.

Mr Healy-Rae, one of two Healy-Rae brothers on Kerry County Council, said his father, the Independent TD Jackie Healy-Rae, would raise the issue as a matter of urgency with Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern, and ask him not to implement the scheme.

The scheme will allow gardaí to send teenagers of 15-17 years into a licensed premises to buy alcohol. If a sale takes place, the licence holder of the premises will be prosecuted. Parental approval will be required, and the young people will receive training.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice yesterday said the scheme was going ahead as scheduled.

However, Kilgarvan publican Mr Healy-Rae said it was “a sting operation” against already beleaguered publicans.

“You are going to use young people to carry out a sting operation on poor publicans. It’s a shambolic attempt to put further pressure on publicans – to criminalise the publican by trying to deliberately fool them.”

It was often difficult for a publican to identify a youngster of 17 as opposed to one of 19, particularly in the case of young women, he said. “A girl of 23 or 24 can look younger than a girl of 17,” he said.

“It’s bad enough if some youngster comes in and fools the person behind the bar – but to be encouraging it to happen to try to nail a publican . . . God knows we have enough regulations with the smoking ban and so on. It’s a daft, lunatic proposal and I am calling for it not to be implemented.”

He added: “If you are going to employ teenagers in this way you are going to be making informers and spies out of them. That is a terrible thing.” He agreed with Fine Gael’s criticism of the scheme. The party’s justice spokesman, Alan Shatter, expressed concern and amazement that the Minister had not consulted with or sought the advice of the Ombudsman for Children on the issue.

Source: The Irish Times, 25/09/10
Journalist: Anne Lucey