The Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly is reportedly planning to seek Government approval today to introduce a minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol products in Ireland.
The proposal going to Cabinet is expected to state that this change in pricing would reduce the harm caused to people's health by preventing the sale of alcohol at very low prices, reports RTÉ.ie
Cheap Alcohol Sales
In April, Patricia Callan, director of Drinks Ireland said that the drinks industry is in favour of tackling the sale of cheap alcohol to reduce alcohol misuse.
In a statement, Callan noted, "While we acknowledge the delays in Northern Ireland in introducing this measure, our position is that MUP should be introduced in conjunction with the North, a position that aligns with the previous Cabinet decision and reconfirmed in the current Programme for Government."
"Otherwise, it would drive many price sensitive households, who have already been hard-hit by the pandemic, to shop across the border. It would also place massive pressures on border businesses, and lead to an increase in illicit alcohol smuggling at the border, all at a vulnerable time for our economy," she said.
An Ibec economic report showed that a unilateral MUP move would increase the existing price differential on alcohol between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland from 27% to 38%.
Additionally, it’s estimated that it would result in a €94 million loss to the Irish Exchequer in increased sales across the border, Drinks Ireland said.
"Beyond alignment with Northern Ireland, the introduction of MUP is logistically very challenging for retailers and drinks manufacturers, so it’s important that a transition period of at least one year is provided to implement the measure, in line with other measures in the Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018," Callan said.
"In the context of this debate, it’s also important to highlight that alcohol consumption in Ireland declined last year by 6.6% to its lowest level in thirty years. This fall, while accelerated by COVID-19 and the closure of the hospitality sector, is also in line with the fact that alcohol consumption generally is declining in Ireland," she added.
According to the group, the average consumption in 2020 was 29.8% lower than the peak of 2001.