Councillor told he can't be 'wishy-washy' after tabling motion to cut legal drinking age

The motion was tabled by Fine Gael councillor Shane O’Callaghan suggesting that the council should write to the minister “to request that the Government consider amending Part IV of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1988 (as amended) so as to reduce the minimum legal drinking age from 18 years of age to 16 years of age”.
Councillor told he can't be 'wishy-washy' after tabling motion to cut legal drinking age

The Lord Mayor of Cork, Fianna Fáil councillor Colm Kelleher, said he believed a move to lower the legal drinking age could prompt a shift to more underage drinking at a younger age.

A MOTION at a meeting of Cork City Council proposing that the council write to the justice minister to request that the Government consider reducing the minimum legal drinking age was withdrawn following sharp criticism from fellow councillors.

The motion was tabled by Fine Gael councillor Shane O’Callaghan suggesting that the council should write to the minister “to request that the Government consider amending Part IV of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1988 (as amended) so as to reduce the minimum legal drinking age from 18 years of age to 16 years of age”.

“I’m not actually saying that I’m necessarily in favour of reducing the legal drinking age… it should be considered, it should be looked at,” Mr O’Callaghan clarified when speaking about his motion.

The councillor for the city’s South Central ward said he is involved in Douglas Tidy Towns group and during a recent litter collecting exercise, collected multiple bags of beer cans and bottles from a woods in the area.

“I would suspect that the vast majority of that is from underage drinking.

“A lot of young people’s first interaction with drink is hiding the fact that they’re drinking because of drinking underage when they shouldn’t be. That’s potentially the beginning of an unhealthy relationship,” he said.

“A lot of Garda resources are expended on going after young people and taking drink off them. It results in a lot of young people at a young age breaking the law essentially by attempting to get served underage and using fake IDs,” he said.

Mr O’Callaghan pointed to the example of Germany, where the legal drinking age is 16, although people must wait until they’re 18 to drink spirits.

“Arguably those countries, I would have thought, might have a more healthy relationship with alcohol than we do,” he said.

“On the other hand, look I’m sure there are many reasons why the minimum drinking age should not be reduced and I acknowledge in that regard I’m not an expert.”

Fianna Fáil councillor Terry Shannon was among the councillors to criticise the motion.

“The first thing I would say about a motion is you have to have the courage of your convictions. If you’re going to put down a motion like this, you’re either in favour of what you’re proposing or you’re not. Being wishy-washy doesn’t work,” he said.

Mr Shannon said he believes the country already has “an unhealthy relationship with alcohol” and voiced his opposition to reducing the minimum drinking age, ultimately calling for the motion to be withdrawn.

Green Party councillor Colette Finn said she was “gobsmacked” when she saw the motion and could not support it as she felt it would send out “all the wrong signals”.

Independent councillor Thomas Moloney expressed disbelief at the motion, stating that when he first saw it, he believed it to be a “misprint”.

The Lord Mayor of Cork, Fianna Fáil councillor Colm Kelleher, said he believed a move to lower the legal drinking age could prompt a shift to more underage drinking at a younger age.

“One of my main concerns, personally speaking, would be if you have 16/17-year-olds using fake IDs to get into bars in this day and age if we reduce it to 16, would you have 13- and 14-year-olds who would be very similar looking to a 16-year-old using fake IDs to get served in a pub?”

Two of Mr O’Callaghan’s party colleagues, councillors Garret Kelleher and Joe Kavanagh, said while they understood Mr O’Callaghan’s concerns and understood the sentiment of the motion, they could not support it.

Mr O’Callaghan said he “wanted to create a debate” on the subject, but ultimately decided to withdraw the motion following the concerns highlighted by other councillors.

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