Sale of Alcohol Bill – Increased Alcohol Harms

The Sale of Alcohol Bill, if enacted as proposed, will result in increased alcohol harms and deaths in Ireland  


The wellbeing of citizens and public health considerations must be given primacy over the vested interests who have lobbied for legislation that will further liberalise the sale of alcohol, Alcohol Action Ireland (AAI) told the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice today 31 Jan 2023. 

AAI’s primary concern with this proposed legislation is the general increase in licensing hours for pubs to 12.30am, and facilitation of late-night opening beyond that. Just to give one example of how harm increases when alcohol availability increases, a study in Norway found that each additional 1-hour extension to the opening hours was associated with a 16% increase in violent crime and a similar study in Amsterdam found 34% more alcohol-related injuries. 


Prof Frank Murray, Chair of the Board of AAI, said:   


“Alcohol is no ordinary commodity, and is quite different from everything else sold in retail in Ireland. It is psychoactive, dependence-producing, and intoxicating. It is a carcinogenic, neurotoxic and teratogenic substance.   

We know that alcohol is responsible for 4 deaths every day – a third of them from accident or incident. Alongside this hospital admission for alcohol-related liver disease increased by 262% from 1995 to 2017.  

The Government of Ireland enacted the Public Health Alcohol Act in 2018 to much international acclaim, with the express aim of reducing alcohol harms. The proposals in the Sale of Alcohol Bill, however, act against the intent of the Public Health Alcohol Act (2018).  

Alcohol harms cost Ireland at least €3.7 billion annually and without a change our GDP will be nearly 2% lower on average between now and 2050. Consideration should also be given to a polluter pays principle and, like the measures in the Gambling Regulation Bill, include provision for a Social Impact Fund in relation to the licensing of alcohol sales.” 


Dr Owen Keane, Irish Association for Emergency Medicine, said:  

Staff working in busy Emergency Departments (EDs) in Ireland witness first-hand the devastation that excessive alcohol use causes. We see worsening and avoidable alcohol-related harm, injury, violence, and death on an all too frequent basis involving younger patients, adults and frail older persons presenting to the ED. Such life changing events and injuries often represent a clear source of enormous distress for patients, families, and staff alike. In times of severely limited acute hospital bed capacity, and ever-increasing attendances to already dangerously overcrowded EDs, it is imperative that every effort is targeted towards avoiding additional strain being placed on emergency care providers and strategies for preventing alcohol-related harm and illness are implemented as a matter of urgency. In this landscape, increasing the availability of alcohol risks adding significant and avoidable demands on already overstretched EDs. 


AAI CEO Dr Sheila Gilheany said:  

“Our view is that this is an opportunity to make clear that the purpose of licensing of alcohol should be one of protecting public health. This should be stated clearly in the Bill. It is also an opportunity to make statutory provision for the systematic collation of relevant data around alcohol. For example, disclosure of the level of annual alcohol sales should be a condition of licensing. Equally there should be statutory monitoring of alcohol harms such as assaults, public order offences, ambulance call outs, admissions to emergency departments.   

 “The evidence from multiple jurisdictions is clear as outlined in our written submission to the Committee. Increasing alcohol availability whether through longer licensing hours or increased density of outlets leads to a range of harms.” Dr Gilheany added.  


AAI’s main asks are:  

  • Reversal of proposed extension of licensing hours 

  • The bill should contain a system to monitor alcohol harms  

  • A levy system be introduced to ensure industry pays for harms it causes  

AAI full set of concerns and asks around this proposed legislation is available here  



Alcohol causes numerous illnesses and deaths. In Ireland, at least 4 deaths per day result from alcohol use, which is more than 1,540 per year. The main harms in Ireland are liver disease including cirrhosis and liver failure, 7 types of cancers and mental ill-health. One third of these alcohol-related deaths result from incident and injury related to the event of drinking such as falls, assaults, traffic collisions and self-harm. Alcohol is a major cause of disability, especially in young and middle-aged individuals. Younger people are disproportionately affected by alcohol compared with older people. 13·5% of all deaths among those aged 20–39 years are attributed to alcohol. 37% of 15-24 year olds who drink have an alcohol use disorder. Disadvantaged and vulnerable populations have increased rates of alcohol-related death and hospitalisation 

AAI’s opening statement to the Oireachtas Committee on Justice here 

AAI’s full written submission to the Oireachtas here 

Prof. Frank Murray, Chair of Alcohol Action Ireland, Opinion piece here 

Other useful resources:   


For all media enquiries and interview requests, please contact:   

Hannah-Alice Loughlin   

Advocacy and Communications Lead   

M: 087 995 0186