Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Alcohol pricing controls in the Republic a sobering reminder of a problem widespread across this island

'We have an undeniable drinking culture here, and almost every family event is often marked by a consumption of alcohol' (Jane Barlow/ PA)
'We have an undeniable drinking culture here, and almost every family event is often marked by a consumption of alcohol' (Jane Barlow/ PA)

Editor's Viewpoint

A policy of minimum alcohol pricing, to be introduced in the Irish Republic, also has significant implications here.

There will be a 40 per cent average differential for the same product in each jurisdiction, but plans to introduce the new laws in Northern Ireland have been delayed by the Stormont impasse.

This is yet another example of the damage being caused to so many aspects of life here because our political representatives are still failing dismally to agree on a form of government.

Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, says the Republic is taking a positive approach to tackle harmful drinking and that Northern Ireland should also introduce minimum unit pricing to tackle alcohol abuse.

Understandably the relevant retailers in the south are against the minimum price controls, claiming it could cause mayhem. Certainly if there is no common price control across the border this could lead to a bizarre Whiskey Galore scenario in border areas. It is not hard to envisage the huge boost in trade for retailers in those areas where they can sell their products for less.

However, there is more to this than money alone. A minimum price policy could play a significant role in reducing alcohol abuse, and reduce the number of deaths in Northern Ireland caused by excessive drinking. Each of these deaths is a tragedy, for the person and their family.

We have an undeniable drinking culture here, and almost every family event is often marked by a consumption of alcohol.

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Much money has been spent on trying to educate people, but with limited effect. Even in 2019 there is a bizarre attitude, with some people still wearing excessive drinking as a badge of honour.

The lack of a minimum pricing policy makes life even more difficult for those with a drink problem. The proposed new laws in the Republic may cause problems for the retailers there, but there will be concern on this side of the border as well. As with so much else, developments in either jurisdiction on this island may well affect those in the other.

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