That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to provide for the grant of a licence authorising the sale of intoxicating liquor to visitors at breweries and distilleries and similar premises, and to provide for related matters.
I note the smile on the face of the Ceann Comhairle. This is a very important Bill and is critical for a growing industry in Ireland. The Bill deals with an anomaly concerning craft brewers and distillers who are not allowed to sell their own produce on their own sites.
Craft brewing and distilling is a growing industry which currently employs approximately 1,000 people directly and indirectly. There are craft brewers and distillers in every county in the country. Many of these distillers and brewers wish to open visitor centres to attract more customers for their product. Unfortunately, however, if one visits such a centre at the moment, one cannot purchase the actual product. Imagine taking a tour of a vineyard in Italy, Spain or France but not being able to purchase a bottle of wine there. It is, frankly, ridiculous. The Bill deals with this anomaly and allows brewers and distillers to sell only their own produce on site. This is critical. They cannot sell anything that has been re-labelled or produced elsewhere. They can only sell what is produced on that site. They will be allowed to sell their produce from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.
Fáilte Ireland, where I worked once upon a time, has stated that the craft brewing and distilling industry has enormous potential to increase tourism. The turnover in craft brewing has grown exponentially in recent years. In fact, there has been an 11 fold increase in the past five years alone.
The potential volume of people who could be employed if we made this legislative change is huge because with tourists coming to this country and from throughout the country to visit these sites, awareness of brands such as Irish brands of whiskey from 100 years ago that became so popular around the world will increase and more people will purchase them. As a consequence, if this Bill is introduced, we will see a direct financial gain for many sectors. For example, in terms of the construction industry, a number of growers are planning to build new visitor centres. There will be gains in the distribution area, the transport sector, the agricultural sector - the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine is in the Chamber - in terms of the growth of crops, in sales and in the production area where there will be more people employed. In totality, we will have an industry that will be able to go from strength to strength.
I visited the White Gypsy Brewery in my constituency and while there I discovered that a number of craft brewer enthusiasts who had visited the brewery were shocked that they could not purchase the produce at the end of their short tour. As a result, working with the independent craft brewers of Ireland and meeting some of the craft distillers, we came around to drafting this legislation to deal with that anomaly. It will create significant growth in the industry and allow it to multiply in serious numbers the volume of people who will be employed across a range of sectors. Fáilte Ireland has indicated that it will create a new tourism product surrounding this area.
This is important legislation. I ask Members across the House and across the political spectrum to support this Bill. The brewers would appreciate it if the Bill could be passed through the House swiftly because of their plans to grow the industry. I ask the Government to accept and support this Bill so that we can get it passed quickly by the House. The brewers will be launching the Bill this day week and I ask anyone who is available to support it. All the brewers will be in touch with all their local Deputies asking them to support this legislation in the coming days and weeks.