Cut off-licence hours to stop house parties, minister suggests 

Cut off-licence hours to stop house parties, minister suggests 

Fine Gael's Patrick O'Donovan said the "uncontrolled consumption of alcohol" was a problem in the battle against coronavirus.

Off-licence opening hours should be curbed to reduce the number of house parties taking place, a Government minister has said.

Fine Gael's Patrick O'Donovan said the "uncontrolled consumption of alcohol" was a problem in the battle against coronavirus.

Mr O'Donovan said he would be speaking with Health Minister Stephen Donnelly about the issue, and called for the Government to take action.

He said: "We know that the virus is spreading rapidly in the community. We know that house parties are a huge part of the problem and we know that alcohol is a huge part of the problem.

"And we know that the uncontrolled consumption of alcohol is a problem."

The junior minister at the Office of Public Works prefaced his comments by acknowledging that his brother is a publican, and said he did not want to see off-licences closed completely.

He told RTÉ's Today With Claire Byrne: "I certainly think that as part of the programme for living with Covid that we need to examine, for instance, maybe opening hours, maybe the volumes that people are allowed to purchase at any one time."

The proposals were branded "draconian" by former Assistant Garda Commissioner Pat Leahy.

He told the programme: "I think when we talk about restricting the sale of alcohol and things like that, I think it really is reflective of the sort of draconian aspect of this in terms of new legislation.

"I think we have to be really careful about how we look for new legislation and how we apply new legislation.

"Nobody wants this type of legislation, the guards don't want these type of powers. The public don't want these type of powers. So we have to be very careful about where we go with that."

Mr Donovan first raised the issue at a Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting on Tuesday, and said he was speaking in a private capacity.

He said people needed to reduce their social interactions and the measure was aimed at reducing the number of house parties taking place.

"I think it needs to be put into the mix by Nphet, the Government and the Department of Health.

"When you see shopping trolleys being pushed out of supermarkets with nothing in it, only alcohol, you know there is a problem.

"I'm not talking about the person going into a Centra and taking home a bottle of wine in the evening. But what I am talking about is where you have numerous slabs and bottles being taken home.

"You know that that's not being taken home for an after-dinner aperitif. You know that that's being taken home for a house party."

He said the proposals would send the message that "this is not acceptable".

He added: "We don't live in a police state. But what we are living in is a state where the virus is growing exponentially.

"I am going to be raising it with Stephen Donnelly. If we are to ask people to put up with the restrictions they've been asked to put up with, I don't think it's beyond the grounds of fairness to ask them not to have house parties."

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