Irish independents in crisis

Ireland’s independent off-licence sector will go out of business in five years, warns the chairwoman of the National Off-Licence Association, unless the Irish government enforces legislation to curb aggressive price promotion and introduces structural segregation of alcohol.

Evelyn Jones said members of Noffla are closing their premises at a frightening rate. The association, which currently has 330 members, has seen 48 specialist independent off-licences shut in the past two years.

Three significant changes to Ireland’s alcohol sales laws were brought before parliament in 2008, but only one – that off-licences were to close at 10pm – has become law. 

The other two changes – restrictions on marketing and price promotion and structural segregation of alcohol – were not put into force.

Dermot Ahern, then minister for justice, accepted arguments from major retailers that implementing the changes would cost €200 million (£162 million). 

In return, a voluntary code of practice was established on the sale of alcohol, which it was hoped would deliver effective segregation while more self-imposed restrictions on the display and advertising of alcohol were also introduced.

“Many factory shifts end at 10pm and our members’ businesses have been substantially affected by having to close at that time,” said Jones. “Consumers have shifted to buying from multiples during the day and the 10pm closing has no impact at all on multiples, which have always stopped selling alcohol at that time anyway.”

Jones said the voluntary code of conduct is being breached and Noffla wants the laws on the structural segregation of alcohol and aggressive price promotion to be put into force.

The voluntary code of conduct is being reviewed by the current minister for justice, Alan Shatter. He is to decide shortly whether it is adequate, a spokesman for his department said.

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