Friday, 13 January 2012

Shortall's minimum price booze boost for Newry

You are in a bookshop, you plonk five hefty tomes on the counter and hand over your money. The assistant then gives you your change and receipt before asking  “do you want a bag?”

A few years back, the government of the day introduced the plastic bag levy, and Irish retailers must have been delighted. The levy was ostensibly about saving the planet, but shop owners saw it as a way to save money by not supplying free plastic bags to customers.

Some switched over to paper bags, but were very miserly about handing them out.  So now the country is full of people walking the streets with armfuls of merchandise.  The above is an excellent example of using a worthy goal - saving the planet – to further supplement the greasy till.

And now Labour’s Roisin Shortall wants to pull the same stunt on a larger scale.  She wants to introduce and enforce a minimum price at which alcohol can be sold, under the pretext of combating under-age drinking by preventing the sale of  “cheap” booze to them... and everyone else.

Publicans have been whinging for years about supermarkets and off-licences selling alcohol for lower prices than they charge in their pubs, so they will be pleased with this one.  You would swear Fianna Fail were still in power, with Shortall serving the same old vested interests  –  albeit camouflaged by the supposed noble goal stamping out under-age and problem drinking.  Many a pickled liver will rejoice, no doubt.

A Department of Health spokesperson recently stated that government’s “real concern” prompting  the proposal was the accessibility of alcohol to young people and under-age drinkers. Surely, though, If retailers are selling alcohol to those who are under-age, they should simply be prosecuted?

Ironically, supermarkets - the real target of the vintners' lobby, are perhaps the most stringent in terms of enforcing age legislation, with every item of alochol sold needing "approval".     (As an aside,  how come  “young people”, students and other assorted brats seem to have so much disposable income to piss up the wall in times such as these, anyway?)

And please, let’s explode the “cheap booze” myth.   A couple of years back, the blog mentioned how cheap, compared with Ireland, alcohol was in Spain, with a bottle of vodka to be had for four euro and a half-litre can of San Miguel for just over 50 cent. Yet the streets were not full of pissed-up Spaniards making a nuisance of themselves and clogging the A&E departments.

No, Ireland’s alcohol and anti-social problems need more focused targeting than Shortall’s  proposal, something she herself concedes by acknowledging the need for an "holistic approach"... while taking the blunderbuss approach anyway and raising the price of yet another consumable for the public.  Can't she see that people feel shafted enough as it is?

Should she get away with it,  despite EU competition law, expect the Newry tills to start ringing again and Irish retailers hear the sound of tumbleweed in the aisles .

And the pubs will still be no busier.

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John said...

When you are no longer in controal of a country you have to something that looks like you are in control. So the old folk devil of drink is an easy target. Publicans cannot accept the fact that peoplw who have invested there life savings in thoer homes no longer are onterested in the Pub as in the time of our grand parents. When the pub having a colour tv was the big attraction.
I gave up drink 4 years ago as I had an Irish love affair with it and for me it was the best thing I ever did. But that came down to personal choice. What will happen is, as in the past, people will sell cheap boose bought in the north to people in poorer areas.

The Gombeen Man said...

That's exactly what will happen, John.

A letter writer in the Times today said it's a bit like increasing the price of food because some people are fat, which I thought was quite good for the Times letters page...

Anonymous said...

Personally I drink very little, so don't care about the price. There is a serious problem with excessive alcohol consumption here, going "drinking" is an activity for many people. Perhaps if they replaced most of the social welfare payments with food stamps, it would reduce both alcohol consumption and associated misery. However, I doubt the minister is really motivated by health concerns, it's just a distraction, a decoy.


John said...

food stamps, great for Tesco and others they can unload their crappier products on the poor. I live in Tallaght and there is sweet feck all for teenagers to do in the eveings. They have cut back on all social programs. The local boxing club which looks after 50 youngsters had got zero resources except for fund raising. The State prefers to spend the money on prison places and been seen to be TOUGH on crime...looks good for the middle class vote.

Anonymous said...

Great pic GM. Looks like she's experiencing a hangover of cosmic proportions.


The Gombeen Man said...

@ Hobnob. Yes, it's all window dressing... and 23% VAT on a higher priced commodity of course. Kenny, Noonan, Shorthal et all should read that tale about the goose and the golden eggs.

@ John. That's bad news. It seems important social facilities get slashed while the quangos remain - merged or not.

@ Thomas. Yeah... I liked it!

Anonymous said...

I often hear people say there is nothing to do in the evenings, what do they want?

Fair enough, grants should be provided to boxing clubs etc, it would be small money with a high payback. Where does the Lotto money go these days?

It doesn't take much to organise a game of soccer, or athletics.
I think it is like a lot of things in this country, people complain about what should be done, but they are not willing to make the effort or give their time. It is always up to someone else.


John said...

Anon, I can assure you that there is a heck of lot of football clubs here and well run, due to the time and dedication of non paid people. I was talking some time back to one man that helps with a junior team and he told me that the "help" from the FAI was to get local business to support your club. Now as the man told me there is a limit on the charity of any shop or business. Looks like they want the next Robbie Keane on the cheap!!

The Gombeen Man said...

@ John, Hobnob. We've a load of talent out there, and some of them make it despite the FAI and the all- pervading GAA. You'd wonder how they do it. You really do have to overcome the system in dear old Erin.

Johnny Giles' "Footballing Man" is a good read in that regard.

Dakota said...

"You would swear Fianna Fail were still in power." I thought they are.

irish_c said...

Hi Gombeen Man, here in Germany drink is a fraction the cost of Ireland and the place has not fallen to bits. Got to miss Gombeenland - Not!

The Gombeen Man said...

If I had half a Gelegenheit, I'd be over there in a flash and out of this rotten dump fur immer, Kumpel.

dub said...

Just of the point of the difference between Irish and Spanish drinking culture despite Spains prices being cheaper.

It's hard to nail down just one cause but I think a big contributing cause is the fact that if you treat adults like children for long enough they will eventually begin to act like children.

The Irish government treats us far too much like children and trying to control us far too much. Glaring example is pub closing times. This act of prohibition was also supposed to stop Irish binge drinking..... surprise surpirse it's gotten worse.