Poll shows high level of public concern about the knock-on impacts of government proposals for later opening hours for pubs and clubs

Media Release

13 Dec 2023

6 in 10 women are worried about on street violence, independent survey data finds

Polling data from Ireland Thinks, carried out on behalf of Alcohol Action Ireland, found that 67% of people are concerned about the potential impact on public services (such as Emergency Departments, ambulances, Gardaí, and transport) due to a proposed extension of opening hours for pubs, late bars, and clubs to later in the night.

The independent survey data also shows that more than 50% of people are concerned about the implications for on-street violence, 41% are concerned about sexual violence and 39% of people are concerned about domestic violence.

Despite the Minister for Justice’s claims that there is widespread support for the changes in the bill, less than half of people polled – 48% – were in favour of the bill’s proposals, with 35% opposed outright to any extension of late-night opening.

The Sale of Alcohol bill proposes to extend licensing hours of all bars/restaurants from 11.30pm to 12.30am and to facilitate late-night opening of bars to 2.30am and nightclubs to 6am.

Many public health advocates including the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine, Irish Medical Organisation, the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland, Alcohol Forum plus community groups such as Ballymun Local Drugs and Alcohol Task Force and the Irish Community Action on Alcohol Network are deeply concerned about the implications of increased alcohol availability in areas such as injuries, illnesses, domestic and sexual violence. These have been clearly presented to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice as part of their pre legislative scrutiny of the Bill.

The survey data also shows that women in particular are very concerned about issues such as on street violence (60%); sexual violence (49%) and domestic violence (49%), increasing if opening hours are extended.

CEO of AAI, Dr Sheila Gilheany said:

“There is significant public concern with polling data indicating less than 50% in favour of the proposed measures. Meanwhile we know that in Northern Ireland, alcohol related crime has increased by 17% since longer licensing hours there were introduced there in Oct 2021.

We have been raising these issues to no avail, as questions to the minister show that very little forward planning is being taken in the first instance to quantify what the fallout from these changes will be and in the second instance, to put measures in place to deal with them. It is deeply frustrating given the remarkably consistent international evidence which is available to show that increasing alcohol availability brings with it increasing alcohol harm.”

Dr Gilheany added: “It’s long past time for the government to realise that people are concerned about this bill and want to see concrete solutions to the issues raised. This should start with a health impact assessment being carried out as called for right from the start of this process.”

Dr Owen Keane, Honorary Secretary of the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine said:

“In times of severely limited acute hospital bed capacity, and ever-increasing attendances to already dangerously overcrowded Irish Emergency Departments (EDs), it is imperative that every effort is targeted towards avoiding any additional strain being placed on emergency care services and its providers. Increasing the availability of alcohol risks adding significant and avoidable demands on already overstretched EDs. It is vital that a thorough and comprehensive Health Impact Assessment is carried out to ensure that any potential impacts of the measures proposed in this Bill on emergency care services are identified and fully costed for.”
Notes to editor

Full survey data here

For media enquiries and interview requests, please contact:

Conor Keane

Tel: 087 995 0186

Email: conor.keane@alcoholactionireland.ie

Other useful resources:  Media guide re non-stigmatising language