Open Letter: An urgent call for this government to fully assess the implications of increased alcohol availability

  • Post category:News

An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, TD
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin, TD
Minister for the Environment, Climate, Communications and Transport, Eamon Ryan, TD

As health, social and community organisations and advocates (79), we are coming together to voice our strong opposition to proposed measures in the Sale of Alcohol bill that will dramatically increase the number of venues serving alcohol, as well as significantly extending the opening hours of pubs, bars and nightclubs. 

Ireland has just begun to make tentative progress towards the goal of reducing alcohol consumption with drinking levels falling slowly on a population level thanks to the measures of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act, 2018 (PHAA). 

The important, evidence-based measures contained within the PHAA were debated for many years, were hard fought and won in the face of significant industry opposition. Its modest regulations are still not fully implemented despite this being a commitment in the Programme for Government. Now, however, the government appears set to undo all the good work achieved over many years by swiftly passing a bill to further liberalise the sale of alcohol across the country. 

That this is being done without carrying out a Health Impact Assessment, as recommended by the Joint Oireachtas Committee for Justice who carried out pre-legislative scrutiny of the bill – and even by those who support the measures – is inexcusable.  

This alarming change of tack in alcohol policy has been done completely in the face of  

a comprehensive body of evidence and particularly highlighted by the World Health Organisation in a recent report that shows extending alcohol availability and trading hours increases: 

  • the burden on public services such as ambulance services, Emergency Departments and Gardaí.  
  • crime 
  • domestic violence 
  • sexual violence 
  • road deaths 

For example: International evidence suggests that a one-hour extension of alcohol trading hours is likely to lead to: 

Furthermore, it does not solve the problem of crowds spilling onto the streets at closing time; it merely shifts the problem later into the night. 

 These are some of the immediate consequences and does not consider other health harms from increased alcohol consumption such as cancer, heart and liver disease and very substantial mental health problems. Children and families will also bear the brunt of this proposed bill. At least 200,000 children are currently growing up with problem alcohol use in the home and Ireland is estimated to have a prevalence rate of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) of 2.8-7.4% of the population –  the third highest rate in the world.  

The proposals in this bill will have impacts across multiple government departments with long lasting consequences. Government and politicians must operate in evidence-based policy making and consider these issues with full facts, not just the views of vested interests. At the very least, fully costed data is required for planning across services.  

A Health Impact Assessment is a practical approach used to judge the potential health effects of a proposed policy, programme or project on a population, particularly on vulnerable or disadvantaged groups.  

This bill also presents an opportunity to make statutory provision for the systematic collation of relevant data around alcohol and its harms. Once we measure it, we can manage and ameliorate.   

Alcohol is an addictive, psychoactive, toxic, carcinogen which already causes four deaths every day, necessitates the use of 1500 hospital beds daily, as well as bringing devastation to families, disruption to workplaces and placing an enormous burden on our public services of at least €3.7 billion annually

We the undersigned are urgently and collectively calling on this government to do the right thing and carry out a Health Impact Assessment of this legislation without further delay. 


  1. Dr Sheila Gilheany, CEO, Alcohol Action Ireland 
  2. Prof Frank Murray, Chair, Alcohol Health Alliance Ireland 
  3. Paula Leonard, CEO, Alcohol Forum 
  4. Cllr Vincent Jackson, Chair, Ballyfermot Local Drug and Alcohol Taskforce 
  5. Hugh Greaves, Coordinator, Ballymun Local Drug and Alcohol Taskforce 
  6. Suzanne Connolly, CEO, Barnardos 
  7. Prof John Ryan, Consultant Hepatologist and Founding Director, Irish Liver Foundation Charity, Beaumont Hospital 
  8. Colm Walsh, Coordinator, Bray Local Drug and Alcohol Taskforce 
  9. Tanya Ward, Chief Executive, Children’s Rights Alliance 
  10. Trevor Bissett, Coordinator, Clondalkin Drug & Alcohol Task Force CLG 
  11. Andrea Ryder, Manager Communication, External Affairs & Policy, College of Psychiatrists of Ireland 
  12. Martin O’Connor, Assistant CEO, COPE Galway 
  13. Gordon Kinsley, Cork and Kerry, Alcohol Strategy Group 
  14. Aaron O’Connell, Chair, Cork Local Drug and Alcohol Taskforce 
  15. Orlaith Kennedy, CEO, Dental Health Foundation 
  16. Jim Ryan, Chairperson, DLR Drug & Alcohol Task Force 
  17. Carol Moore, Trustee, Dual Diagnosis Ireland 
  18. Damien Lynch and Dominic Foley, Chair and Honorary Secretary, Environmental Health Association of Ireland 
  19. Fergal Landy, Chief Executive Officer, Family Resource Centres National Forum
  20. Scott Casson-Rennie, COO, FASD Ireland 
  21. Evelyn Fanning, Chairperson Galway City Alcohol Forum 
  22. Dr Caitríona McCarthy, Consultant in Public Health Medicine, HSE National Cancer Control Programme 
  23. Dr Brian Osborne, Assistant Medical Director, ICGP 
  24. Dr Owen Keane, Honorary Secretary of IAEM and Consultant in Emergency Medicine, Irish Association of Emergency Medicine 
  25. Irish Cancer Prevention Network 
  26. Amy Rose Harte, Head of Advocacy Campaigns, Irish Cancer Society 
  27. Orla Fagan, National Lead, Irish Community Action on Alcohol (AFI) 
  28. Chris Macy, Director of Advocacy and Patient Support, Irish Heart Foundation 
  29. Dr John Cannon, President, Irish Medical Organisation 
  30. Donna Price, Founder and Chairperson, Irish Road Victims Association 
  31. Caroline Kennedy-Crawford, President, Irish Student Health Association 
  32. Caroline O’Sullivan, Director of Services, ISPCC 
  33. Marie Keating Foundation 
  34. Prof Stephen Stewart, Consultant Hepatologist, Mater Hospital 
  35. Colin Fowler, Director of Operations, Men’s Health Forum Ireland 
  36. Fiona Coyle, CEO, Mental Health Reform 
  37. Michael Lacey and Helen Ryan, Chairperson and Coordinator, Mid-West Regional Drug and Alcohol Forum 
  38. Philip Maree, Service Lead, M-PACT, Moving Parents and Children Together 
  39. Dr Eve Griffin, CEO, National Suicide Research Foundation 
  40. Orla O’Connor, Director, National Women’s Council of Ireland 
  41. John Williams, Operations Manager, No Name Club 
  42. Andy Ogle, Coordinator, North Eastern Regional Drug & Alcohol Task Force 
  43. Susan Gray, Founder and Chairperson, PARC Road Safety Group 
  44. Emmet Major, Planet Youth Coordinator, Western Region, Planet Youth 
  45. Dr Maria O’Dwyer National Coordinator, Prevention and Early Intervention Network 
  46. Dr Clíona Saidléar, Executive Director, Rape Crisis Network Ireland 
  47. Siobhán Creaton, Head of Communications and Public Affairs, Royal College of Physicians of Ireland 
  48. Mary McDermott, CEO, Safe Ireland 
  49. Ailbhe Smyth, Patron, Silent Voices, an initiative of Alcohol Action Ireland 
  50. Keith Cassidy, Clinic Manager, Smarmore Castle Treatment Centre 
  51. Gordon Kinsley, Development Worker, Southern Regional Drug and Alcohol Taskforce 
  52. Grace Hill, Coordinator, Tallaght Drug & Alcohol Task Force 
  53. Dr Frank Houghton, Director- Social Sciences ConneXions, Technological University of the Shannon 
  54. Prof Norah Campbell, Trinity Business School and Co-Lead on the Commercial Determinants of Health Lab, Trinity College Dublin 
  55. Dr Zubair Kabir, Senior Lecturer: Public Health & Epidemiology, University College Cork 
  56. Prof Orla Crosbie, Consultant Hepatologist, University College Cork 
  57. Prof Ray Walley, GP and Assoc. Clinical Professor General Practice, University College Dublin 
  58. Paddy Creedon, Chair, Voices of Recovery, an initiative of Alcohol Action Ireland 
  59. Joe O’Neill, Chair, Western Region Drug and Alcohol Taskforce 
  60. Dr Hugh Gallagher, Integrated Alcohol Service, Addiction Services Dublin North City & County 
  61. Marianne Beasley, Planning Law & Environmental Mgt. Consultant. Legal, Mediation & Arbitration Services 
  62. John and Anne Higgins, Public Health Advocates, Ballina Co. Mayo 
  63. Carol Fawsitt, Co-founder, Silent Voices; Former chair, Alcohol Action Ireland 
  64. Anthony Cotter, Former Regional Director in the Probation Service, Dept of Justice
  65. Patricia Kelly, Rhode, Co. Offaly 
  66. Angela King, Dublin 2 
  67. Dr Mary T O’Mahony, consultant in public health medicine 
  68. Mick Devine, specialist in addiction treatment 
  69. John Molloy, retired consulting engineer 
  70. Dudley Potter, retired solicitor
  71. Jennifer Moran Stritch, lecturer and researcher, Technological University of the Shannon, Midlands Midwest
  72. Dr Cate Hartigan, (RGN), retired health care professional
  73. Dr Gillian Shorter, reader in clinical psychology, Queen’s University Belfast
  74. Dr. Monica O’Mullane, Health Research Board emerging investigator for health, University College Cork
  75. Michael Router, Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh
  76. Professor Colin O’Gara, Consultant Psychiatrist, Head of Addiction Services, Saint John of God Hospital
  77. Jacqueline Daly, Drug / Alcohol Prevention Project, Cork City Partnership CLG
  78. Cork Healthy Cities, Cork city
  79. Dr Anne Sheahan, area director of public health, HSE SW and national specialty director for public health medicine