The government ordered an urgent probe Wednesday into Ireland's growing drink problem amid growing concern about binge drinking, soaring alcohol sales and a resulting rise in public disorder.
Justice Minister Brian Lenihan said there had been a 17-percent increase in alcohol consumption over the past 10 years and a 35-percent increase in 2003-2005 in the number of off-licences selling take-away drink.
AdvertisementThe government approved his proposal to establish an advisory group to urgently examine "key aspects of the law" governing the sale and consumption of alcohol.
"We have a problem with binge drinking in this country and it is clear that this problem is adding to public disorder," Lenihan said.
"I am determined to tackle, as a matter of urgency, the public order aspects of the sale and consumption of alcohol."
Excessive drinking and rows on the streets are of increasing concern in newly prosperous Ireland, with President Mary McAleese and the country's Roman Catholic bishops both urging moderation last year.
The bishops say that while 21st-century Ireland is one of the wealthiest nations in Europe, the battle with booze has not been won.
Ireland's pubs have long been a social hub but business has been hit recently by a smoking ban and a crackdown on drunk driving in an effort to cut the soaring number of alcohol-related road deaths.
Lenihan's wants the group to report before April so he can bring proposed legal changes to parliament within the following months.
He wants them to examine changing patterns of drinks sales.
There has been an increase in the number of supermarkets, convenience stores and petrol stations with off-licences and Lenihan wants the group to look at the "unit-cost selling and special promotions."
He also wants a report on the increasing number of special exemption orders which permit longer pub opening hours.
The group will also examine the "use, adequacy and effectiveness of existing sanctions and penalties" to combat excessive and under-age drinking.