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Crackdown on street parties as €75 fines may be enforced

  • Government targets takeaway pints after shock at crowded city

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TD Michael Healy-Rae

TD Michael Healy-Rae

Collins Dublin, Gareth Chaney

TD Michael Healy-Rae

A new crackdown on people gathering outdoors to drink could see takeaway pints banned and greater enforcement of existing legislation against street drinking.

The potential move follows concerns expressed about people congregating in Dublin city centre last weekend.

People also reportedly gathered in Cork city drinking take-away pints on streets in recent weeks.

The Herald also understands there is concern among ministers that existing regulations banning on-street drinking in the capital are not being enforced.

Sources pointed to existing by-laws banning the consumption of alcohol on the streets and suggested enforcement of the regulations should be "ramped up" given the ongoing pandemic.

Dublin City Council by-laws already allow €75 fines for outdoor drinking away from approved areas.

The issues of takeaway pints and greater enforcement are likely form part of the discussion at today's Cabinet meeting.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin told Cork radio station Red FM a ban on take-away pints was up for debate.

"What we have been seeing could put this progress in the fight against Covid-19 in jeopardy.

"It puts frontline workers in our hospitals under pressure, it puts our ICU beds under pressure," Mr Martin said.

"Widespread congregation of people on our streets facilitates the spreading of the virus.

"We are going to have to review, in particular, the whole take-away pints phenomenon, we are going to review that and see what we can do.

"We are going to look at that very seriously.

"It will happen over the next two days, I will be seeking reports from the gardaí and consulting with the Minister for Justice today," he added.

Christmas

A senior health source confirmed Health Minister Stephen Donnelly is planning to introduce the ban on takeaway pints shortly.

He may need Cabinet approval before he signs the regulation.

The move comes two weeks before the second national lockdown is due to end.

It is unclear if 'wet pubs' will be allowed to open once the lockdown ends,  but Government sources predict it is unlikely.

Restaurants and pubs that serve food may be allowed to re-open, but whether they can serve customers indoors is still being considered.

The Government is planning to move the country into Level 3 restrictions on December 1 and then ease regulations further closer to Christmas to allow people to visit family and travel between counties.

Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae said a ban on the sale of take-away alcohol was a "knee-jerk reaction", adding only a "very small number of people misbehaved".

He told RTÉ: "This is Ireland, not Moscow.

"We can't bring in new legislation for every event that will happen at different locations throughout the country.

"A very small number of people misbehaved in a way they shouldn't have and congregated in a way they shouldn't have.

"But people are tired of restrictions and being prohibited from things they want to do.

"We respect what the government is trying to do, but what we want to do is to use common sense and to use the brain that God gave them to ensure they don't overreact to a situation that happened."

One publican, Pat Kavanagh of The Mullingar House in Dublin, told the Herald: "What happened in town was deplorable.

"When I do takeaway pints, I don't let anyone drink within 100 metres of the premises.

"I adhere to all the policies that have been given out from March from the Government, and I think they have been completely, totally unfair."

He added that he believes pubs have been "singled out far too much", especially since alcohol can also still be bought in supermarkets.

Escalation

"They're talking about taking away pints - well then close the supermarket off licenses," he said.

"Someone gets a six pack out of the local shop and opens the cans, so what's the difference?"

Mr Kavanagh suggested that banning take-away pints is "only going to be driving people more into houses and house parties, and I think we're going to have an escalation then," he said.

"There is control in pubs, rather than these house parties with kegs being brought home."


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