Proposed Sale of Alcohol Bill could come at ‘enormous’ cost to Irish society, international expert warns 

Professor Emeritus Tom Babor has analysed Ireland’s Sale of Alcohol Bill in a report published today, Tuesday May 9, at an event at Wood Quay, Dublin 8, launched by the Lord Mayor of Dublin Caroline Conroy 

This government’s pursuit of a ‘night-time economy’ that increases access to alcohol will bring to Ireland’s streets and homes the ensuing issues that often accompanies increasing alcohol availability, a report published today warns. 

Author of the report, The Sale of Alcohol Bill (2022): An analysis of costs and benefits, Professor Emeritus Tom Babor and co-author of the seminal book, Alcohol: No Ordinary Commodity, said there is now an extensive scientific literature on the effects of the measures proposed in Ireland’s Sale of Alcohol Bill, including the extension of trading hours, the concentration of drinking outlets, lack of regulation of drink deliveries and the removal of limits on the number of on-licenses.  

“The evidence is that they cause increases in things such as alcohol-related disease, injuries, crime, public disorder, public safety and domestic violence,” Prof Babor said. 

“When alcohol consumption becomes the central organizing feature, as reflected in the proposed Sale of Alcohol Bill, the social and recreational benefits can come at an enormous cost. Part of the cost is attributable to the need to improve urban management, urban infrastructure and public transportation services, environmental sanitation, personal security, police protection, emergency services and traffic management. Many cities in the UK, the EU and Australia have experienced epidemics of public intoxication following policy changes that were intended, just like the Sale of Alcohol Bill, to attract adults and youth to social and cultural events, but succeeded mainly in attracting youth out for a night of heavy drinking.  

A key question for the Republic of Ireland is whether the major changes proposed in the Sale of Alcohol Bill are likely to facilitate epidemics of binge drinking that have major implications for public health and social well-being,” Prof Babor added. 

Opening today’s event, the Lord Mayor of Dublin Caroline Conroy noted that the evidence given by an renowned international expert and indeed all of the other speakers, must form part of the discussion on the sale of alcohol bill. “As all of the experts here today will attest to, this report must form part of the discussion on the sale of alcohol bill, because as Prof Babor finds when alcohol is more readily available, consumption and associated problems increase.” 

The three groups, Irish Community Action on Alcohol Network, Alcohol Action Ireland and Alcohol Forum Ireland, holding today’s event with Prof Babor have been campaigning for the government to take heed of comprehensive evidence put forward in respect of the public health implications of the proposed Bill and to consider the lack of specificity about the policy objectives – apart from the so-called nighttime economy- of the Sale of Alcohol bill. Indeed, the Justice Oireachtas committee tasked with pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill, has recommended that a public health impact assessment be carried out. To date there has been no response from government as to if or when this will happen. 

Ahead of the event, panelist Prof Frank Murray and Chair of Alcohol Action Ireland said: 

“The proposed Sale of Alcohol Bill contains measures which, if enacted as proposed, will result in increased alcohol harms and deaths in Ireland.  In the face of a dreadful crisis in healthcare bed capacity, approximately 1,500 hospital beds are used every day for alcohol related illnesses. ED departments, currently at breaking point, are also hugely negatively impacted by alcohol use. A study in 29 emergency departments in Ireland found that alcohol accounted for 6% of all patients presenting to ED, with 57% arriving by ambulance. In the early hours of Sunday morning, alcohol-related illnesses and injuries accounted for 29% of all presentations to EDs.  

“It is in this awful landscape of alcohol harms and deaths, that the Government is planning to increase the availability of alcohol in a misguided effort to stimulate the night-time economy, through significant extensions to opening hours and increases in both the number and type of venues permitting sale of alcohol. Such increases will predictably increase alcohol sales and with that will increase alcohol harms,” Prof Murray said.

“We should bear in mind of the fact that other jurisdictions are rowing back on liberalization of night-time economies. For example, Amsterdam is placing further restrictions on alcohol consumption and earlier closures for bars. Some districts in Amsterdam had found a 34% increase in ambulance attendances for alcohol-related injury where there had been a 1-hour increase in opening hours of alcohol outlets, compared with other areas within the city.” 


Co-Chair of the event and CEO of Alcohol Forum, Paula Leonard, said:  

“In order to avoid the mistakes of other countries where the promotion of the night-time economy has significantly increased harms from alcohol, the provisions of the Sale of Alcohol Bill should be revised taking into account public health considerations described in this report. Alcohol already costs Ireland at least €3.7 billion annually.   Professor Babor’s analysis indicates that this figure can only increase if public health issues continue to be ignored in this Bill. Alcohol Forum together with Alcohol Action Ireland and ICAAN are calling on individuals, organisations and communities to join our call to politicians and policy makers to put public health interests at the heart of this Bill.” 




Event notes: The real cost of the Sale of Alcohol Bill event is being held on Tues, 9 May at Wood Quay Venue, Dublin City Council, Fishamble Street, Wood Quay, Dublin 8, 10am – 11am. 

Register here if you would like to attend. 

Event schedule: 

10.00am: Opening & Welcome: Hugh Greaves, ICAAN & Co-ordinator of Ballymun Local Drug and Alcohol Task Force  

10.05am: Professor Tom Babor: Overview of report  

10.35am: Panelist responses from: 

Prof Frank Murray Consultant Hepatologist and Gastroenterologist, Chair Alcohol Action Ireland 

Jean Carr, Dublin 12 Drug and Alcohol Taskforce 

Dr Eoin Fogarty, Consultant in Emergency and Retrieval Medicine, Cork University Hospital 

Dr Bobby Smyth, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, College of Psychiatrists of Ireland 

10.55am: Joint statement by Paula Leonard, CEO Alcohol Forum Ireland Dr Sheila Gilheany, CEO Alcohol Action Ireland 

The event is being held by Irish Community Action on Alcohol Network, Alcohol Action Ireland and Alcohol Forum Ireland. All three groups have campaigned against key provisions of the Sale of Alcohol Bill (2022) and have made submissions to the Department of Justice and appeared before the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice to raise their concerns about the proposed legislation.  

Find a copy of Prof Babor’s report, The Sale of Alcohol Bill (2022): An analysis of costs and benefits here. 


For all media enquiries and interview requests, please contact: 

Jennifer Hough 

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