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DUP Health Minister Jim Wells wants to copy Republic of Ireland's minimum price alcohol law

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Health Minister Jim Wells

Health Minister Jim Wells

PA

Ireland's Health Minister Leo Varadkar

Ireland's Health Minister Leo Varadkar

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Health Minister Jim Wells

The DUP Health Minister has vowed to work with the Republic to end the difference between alcohol prices on both sides of the border.

Despite the euro dropping in value, the price of alcohol in Northern Ireland is still cheaper than south of the border.

However, Stormont minister Jim Wells said he was backing the Irish Government's approach to new laws on a minimum unit pricing (MUP) for alcohol.

His Dublin counterpart, Leo Varadkar, has published a Bill allowing for minimum alcohol pricing, and said he hopes legislation will in place at the end of the year.

Mr Wells said: "I announced my intention to bring forward MUP in Northern Ireland in December and I anticipate, subject to Executive agreement, launching a consultation on how MUP would be introduced in the near future."

He said, however, Northern Ireland had to work with Dublin on the new measures, saying health officials were already in close contact and working to synchronise any new rules.

"We have agreed to continue to work together on this issue and will work, as far as possible, to enact legislation within similar timescales," he said.

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Mr Wells said there were 236 alcohol-related deaths in Northern Ireland in 2013, with 12,000 related hospital admissions, costing the local economy nearly £900m a year. The burden to healthcare alone has been estimated at up to £240m per year.

However, the difficulty facing both health departments will be the exchange rates between the euro and Sterling.

Even with the euro at just 75p yesterday, alcohol remains cheaper north of the border.

Tesco in Londonderry sells 20 cans of Guinness for the equivalent of €26.

The same money buys just 16 cans of the same draft beer in Tesco Letterkenny, a saving of a fifth.

The cheapest bottle of value range red wine in Tesco Derry was nearly £2 cheaper than Tesco Letterkenny.

A euro buys 616mls of Carlsberg in Derry, but just 333mls in the Republic, making the northern lager almost half the price.

Tesco in both stores sells its own 'Everyday Value' vodka and gin. In Derry this own brand range of vodka was £10 or €13 for a 70cl bottle, which was 74p (99c) cheaper than Letterkenny.

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