FINE Gael Cork North Central Deputy, Dara Murphy, has said that as the debate around tackling the sale of low cost alcohol has already commenced, with the same debate taking place in the UK, we must now look at ways of ensuring that the changes implemented do not have a negative impact on the border counties.
“Any argument made for increasing the price of consumer products in the State, invariably comes back to the number of people that will flood across the border in a bid to find the same product at a cheaper price.
“Britain and Northern Ireland are also currently looking at ways of tackling alcohol abuse and low cost selling, so it makes sense that any initiative being considered here is introduced in tandem with a similar one in the UK.
“This would help mitigate the impact on the border counties, in terms of cross-border shopping.
“Setting a minimum price for any product is sometimes seen as anti-competitive. If, in place of setting minimum prices, an appropriate levy was applied to alcohol off sales, the money could be used to address the growing problem of alcohol abuse in the State.
“In this way, we could not be accused of price fixing and a situation whereby large multinationals and big brand supermarkets are the beneficiaries of such a move could be avoided.
“It is vital, however, that any increase in the price of alcohol is not applied to sales in pubs, bars or restaurants, known as ‘on-sales’ which are already selling at significantly higher prices and which are labour intensive industries.
“We need to close the gap between the cost of alcohol off-sales and of drink sold in labour-intensive sectors.
“Discussion would have to be undertaken with the Revenue Commissioners to see if legislation is required to differentiate between on and off-sales.
“The cost to this State annually of dealing with alcohol abuse is astronomical. Beyond any initiative Minister Shorthall intends to look at, we need to examine, as the Minister has said, our relationship with alcohol and our culture of abuse.
“The problems experienced here, in the North and in the UK are almost non-existent in large swathes of mainland Europe where alcohol is, in many cases, considerably cheaper.
“We must ensure that the revenue accumulated through any measure to tackle the abuse of alcohol should come to the Exchequer and not multinationals.
“People are, through their taxes, already paying dearly for the cost of this abuse. We must look constructively now at the best way forward in addressing these issues.”