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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 11 Jul 2018

Vol. 259 No. 9

Intoxicating Liquor (Breweries and Distilleries) Bill 2016: Second Stage (Resumed)

I thank the Minister for bringing this Bill to the House. On behalf of the Fianna Fáil group, I am happy to support the Bill. I hope the Minister has the same cross-party in this House that he enjoyed in the other House. I acknowledge the input of Deputy Kelly into this Bill. This is a very well thought-out Bill and it is excellent to see it before the House today.

As the Minister noted, the craft microbrewery industry is very innovative and exciting. It is an exciting emerging market in Ireland and we should do everything in our power to encourage and support it. There has been an explosion in microbreweries in recent years. I note there has been a 29% increase in the number of production microbreweries from 48 in 2015 to 62 in 2016. This figure has quadrupled since 2012. It is a huge area that has the potential to grow even more.

There is potential to develop this industry and this Bill lends support to the industry. It is a practical step that we can take to encourage the industry and tourism. Tourism is so important given the context of Brexit. We need to enhance our tourism product and do more to encourage people to visit not only Dublin, large urban centres and large tourism centres but other areas of the country that have a lot to offer. Emerging microbreweries in certain areas can do a lot for the local economy and local employment, and it is right and proper that we do everything to encourage that and enhance local employment in the area.

It is worth noting the food and drinks industry, how it has developed over the years in Ireland and how important it is for our economy and tourism sector. The microbrewery and craft brewery industry does a lot to enhance our international reputation. It is worth noting that the alcohol product is, by and large, consumed in a very different manner to other alcohol products. It is consumed by connoisseurs along with food and is not abused in the way other alcohol products have a tendency to be abused, so we should encourage this type of alcohol production and consumption and the promotion of Ireland in this manner.

I welcome the Minister to the House. We are enjoying a new industry that is growing in Ireland. Although we realise the need to reduce access to alcohol and alcohol consumption, this Bill is not about promoting consumption. It is about supporting many craft brewers and distillers. It sorely needs to be passed and enacted so that we can help small businesses create employment and drive tourism. I have many friends and their family members in Carlow and Kilkenny who are very grateful for the growth of this industry because the breweries and distillers, which are labour-intensive, create significant employment - certainly in my own constituency. We have the wonderful Walsh Whiskey Distillery in Royal Oak, County Carlow, and O'Hara's Brewery, while Carlow Institute of Technology even has a unique brewing and distilling course.

The brewing and distilling industry in Ireland is growing rapidly and includes a beer sector that employs 2,000 people. It supports thousands of farming families and direct employment in distilling and will see growth of 30% by 2025 with massive growth in microbreweries, with 100 expected by 2025. There are plans to invest €1 billion in the whiskey industry and to grow market share by 300%. A total of 28 distilleries and 62 microbreweries are now operating or are being developed on the island of Ireland. These small ventures are started by families and friends and they pride themselves on their local product. They put their heart and soul into this ancient tradition and give good jobs to good families. They can form the backbone of a tourism boost for areas without sufficient historical monuments or archaeological sites. According to figures from the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland, turnover at Irish microbreweries rose to €52 million in 2016 from €8 million in 2012. This is a growing industry. Brewing is an ancient tradition in Ireland and is something we can and should show off to our visitors. While the concept of a tour of the brewery, which also creates employment for tour guides, is all-important, I firmly believe in the need to allow people to buy on the premises and to take home a sample of a high-quality locally produced item. Let them take home a taste of Carlow and they will know why I am always singing about it.

I assure the Minister of my complete support for this legislation and assure him that my customary co-operation with its passage will be repeated here today. It is a perfectly reasonable, necessary and intelligent piece of legislation that I strongly support.

I have two queries for the Minister. Perhaps my passing acquaintance with the law relating to intoxicating liquor explains why I am asking this question. Does section 1(6) restrict sale to persons over the age of 18 or is that provided for somewhere else in the Intoxicating Liquor Acts that is not referenced in the Bill? It states that notwithstanding anything contained in the Licensing Acts 1833 to 2018, alcohol can effectively be sold to persons who have completed a guided tour on the premises or to persons who have completed a tour where the sale is an off sale? Does it definitely exclude the sale to people under the age of 18? I just wanted clarity on that because if it does not, the Minister could put in a definition of "person" to mean a person over the age of 18.

I was not a great fan of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, which was recently passed by this House. I think it is excessive in many respects and has now gone to the Dáil. Are the terms of this Bill now before the House such as to require an amendment to the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill? The latter Bill included all sorts of restrictions about places near schools, advertising and the like and I want to make sure we are not pursuing two different legislative aims at the same time.

I assure the Minister that if there is any conflict between this legislation and the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill I would be in favour of this Bill passing and the latter Bill being amended to accommodate it. I have no further comments.

I welcome the Minister to the House. I also welcome Deputy Kelly and the small brewers who are seated in the Gallery. I wish to share time with Senator Coffey.

I understood that.

Having grown up in a pub, I warmly welcome the Bill. I have seen the impact small breweries have on employment and expansion. I have worked closely with a small brewery in Limerick, Treaty City Brewery, on a number of issues recently. It has been granted a licence to expand its business into the historical part of Limerick, only a stone's throw from King John's Castle. I have seen the impact the licence has had on the development of the brewery's business. The brewery has developed different types of beers and provided employment not only to members of the family who own it but to other people as well.

Craft breweries have had a positive impact on tourism. In Limerick, for example, the Treaty City Brewery is a tourist attraction, which offers visitors an opportunity to taste a variety of beers. Breweries have done a great deal of work employing chemists to develop the variety of beers on offer. Beer is an acquired taste. The development of breweries is very positive overall.

The Intoxicating Liquor Act refers to people who are over 18 years and I am sure the people visiting these breweries will be over 18 years of age. Breweries are a very positive tourism attraction. It is also positive that many local pubs sell the beers produced by small local breweries. Larger breweries and drinks companies have operated here for many years. I highly commend small breweries on expanding and developing a variety of beers. I wish the Bill a safe passage.

I thank Senator Byrne for sharing time with me.

This is a common-sense Bill and I commend its sponsor, Deputy Alan Kelly, who is seated in the Gallery, on introducing it in the Dáil. I acknowledge also that the Deputy's Bill is a recognition of a unique and growing sector of entrepreneurs in Ireland, namely, the microbreweries, distilleries and cider makers of Ireland.

I commend the Minister for Justice and Equality on developing the Bill further, bringing it through the Dáil and introducing it to this House. I thank the Leader of the Seanad, Senators from all parties and Independent Senators for supporting the passage of the Bill through the Houses of the Oireachtas before the summer recess. Enactment of the legislation will prove beneficial to the businesses in question and will encourage the creation of tourism jobs over the summer period, which is the right thing to do.

Heretofore, it was impossible for entrepreneurs and microbreweries to sell their product on site. People visiting these premises to see how beer, cider and other products were produced were puzzled that they could not purchase anything. The measures we are taking in this legislation will cater for the tourism sector. As Senator Clifford-Lee stated, Ireland has a strong reputation for great food, beverages and food festivals. I invite the Minister, Deputy Kelly and their friends to visit West Waterford Festival of Food to experience the wonderful foods available in County Waterford, including the excellent craft beers produced by the well known Dungarvan Brewing Company and Metalman Brewing Company in County Waterford.

I support the Bill. As I stated, it is common-sense legislation which recognises a gap that exists. It also recognises that our unique brewers and distilleries that produce craft beers and ciders require the support of the State. It is a reasonable Bill which will allow them to trade and do what they do best, namely, produce quality products that taste good, thus encouraging tourism and visitors.

As previous speakers noted, the legislation will encourage the responsible consumption of alcohol. I encourage people not to overindulge but to enjoy the taste of these products and appreciate the unique products that are produced in many localities around Ireland.

I commend Deputy Kelly and the Minister for Justice and Equality and offer the full support of the Fine Gael side of the House. Go raibh maith agat, a Cathaoirleach.

Agus Seanadóir Ó Donnghaile.

Go raibh cead míle maith agat, a Chathaoirligh, agus go raibh maith agat, a Aire.

As has been outlined extensively by previous speakers, this is a common-sense Bill. It makes sense for a whole raft of reasons such as tourism, as an economic driver and provides opportunities to create employment.

I can relate to what people have said about the unique and bespoke opportunities that indigenous craft breweries bring to our home places. I do not know whether visitors to breweries and distilleries in the North can sample a beer or cider during a tour but I will investigate the matter.

From a Sinn Féin perspective, we know what small indigenous craft brewers do for the economy, not least the many benefits they bestow on the large macro-tourism industry and on grassroots communities in some parts of Ireland, North and South, that may not have always enjoyed the benefits of the tourism sector and the accompanying opportunities. I assure the Minister for Justice and Equality and Deputy Kelly, who is seated in the Gallery, that Sinn Féin supports the Bill.

I thank the Senator for his brevity. I will have to visit these places, such as Waterford, to which everyone but me seems to have been invited.

I invite the Cathaoirleach as well.

I will bring the Minister and Deputy Alan Kelly on a tour of these facilities in County Cork.

I thank the Senators.

I urge the Cathaoirleach not to worry as I am sure the invitation extends to him.

I welcome the Minister for Justice and Equality to the House. I, too, welcome Deputy Alan Kelly and his colleagues to the Gallery and those who have an interest in the Bill. I welcome this important Bill which was initiated and sponsored by my Labour Party colleague, Deputy Kelly, in the Dáil. The Bill passed through the Dáil in the past week having been initiated in the other House last year, with cross-party support. I also acknowledge the support expressed both in this House and in the Dáil by the Minister for Justice and Equality.

As Deputy Kelly said in the Dáil, this is a small but important Bill. He acknowledged that the White Gypsy Brewery in Templemore initiated the idea that inspired the legislation. He spoke of the story Mr. Cuilan Loughnane, the owner of the White Gypsy Brewery, told him about a number of visitors to his brewery from the US who could not believe they were unable to purchase beer from him on the premises. This is a common-sense Bill that seeks to address the anomaly whereby people who take tours of distilleries, breweries and vineyards are unable to purchase products on site. Clearly, this is an anomaly in the licensing legislation, which it is important to address because, as the Minister said, microbreweries and distilleries are a dynamic and growing area of tourism in Ireland. It is also a labour intensive area. We know from the 2016 production levels that microbreweries alone employed 439 persons of full-time equivalent status. Other Senators spoke about the phenomenal growth in new enterprises. As many as 33 of the 62 production microbreweries commenced production in the 2014 to 2015 period alone. The need to encourage growth in this sector is recognised by all the arms of the State. In that regard, I note Fáilte Ireland sponsored and assisted the launch of the Bill in 2017 in recognition of the potential growth in tourism.

I recently had occasion to visit both the Jameson distilleries in Dublin and Midleton. I was very impressed by both of them and struck by the number of people who visited both premises. I also noted the enormous goodwill they generate locally.

There is also an issue of equity here to which the Minister alluded in his speech. Some of the larger breweries and distilleries have already obtained public house licences in order to ensure that they can sell alcohol products to visitors, including those they produce on their premises. However, there is an issue of equity because that might not be an option for smaller craft breweries, in particular microbreweries and smaller distillers, because of the cost of extinguishing an existing public house licence. In my area of Dublin we have the Teeling Distillery in Newmarket Square which has regenerated an area that lacked investment for some time so this is the sort of initiative we want to encourage.

As chairperson of the Votáil 100 committee I was delighted to see my Labour Party colleague, Deputy Joan Burton, speaking in the Dáil in support of this Bill and noting that a number of prominent distillers are women, including at the craft distillery in Midleton. She also noted that it is increasingly the case with craft beer that more women are getting involved as entrepreneurs. I am indebted to Ursula Ni Choill in my office for pointing out to me a recent profile in Image magazine of five Irish women brewing craft beer that was published in February 2018. The article noted that Irish women are now at the forefront of craft beer brewing and are breaking all number of glass ceilings to earn their place in the fast moving beverage industry in Ireland. They referred to Metalman Brewery in Waterford, to which Senator Coffey referred, but also to Two Sisters Brewing, Rascals Brewing Company in Donegal, West Kerry Brewery in Kerry and N17 Craft Beers in Galway. In all corners of the country we are seeing not only a growth in craft beer brewing but also in the number of women entrepreneurs. Beoir magazine in 2014 pointed out that the tradition of women brewing is a long one in Ireland. We may think that it is a recent development-----

I will not respond to Senator McDowell's point. While we think of the number of women entrepreneurs in the alcohol industry in Ireland as a relatively modern phenomenon, in fact, throughout history women have played an integral role in the production of beer.

It gives a new meaning to the glass ceiling.

Yes, indeed it does. According to this source it seems that St. Brigid herself had her hand in miraculous brewing. Given that we have had some strong cultural allusions in the many debates we have had earlier today I thought it would be nice to conclude with an 11th century Irish poem, St. Brigid’s Ale Feast. When asked what her view of heaven was St. Brigid replied:

I would like to have a great lake of beer for Christ the King

I would like to be watching the heavenly family drinking it down through all eternity

While Irish vineyards may be a new phenomenon it seems Irish craft brewing is not a new phenomenon and the increase in the number of women involved in the craft brewing industry is not a new phenomenon.

Joking aside, this is a small but important Bill and it could contribute to the growth of a dynamic and fast growing sector in the economy. It would also contribute to an increase in tourism. It is something all Members on both sides of the House can support. It is about responsible consumption of alcohol. I am sure the Minister will respond to Senator McDowell's important point about persons who are over 18 because this is about responsible consumption and that is something that needs to be stressed. When we see people having a small glass of Guinness in the Guinness Storehouse, which is also near where I live in central Dublin and we see the phenomenal number of visitors to that store; it is not about drinking large quantities of alcohol, it is about the experience of seeing the way in which Guinness is produced and being able to consume a small amount of alcohol as part of that experience. That is also a very important point to make in support of this important Bill.

I will defer to Senator Humphreys. I am sure Senator Norris cannot resist the occasion to have a tipple.

I will not delay the Minister. I think he is enjoying his visit to the Seanad this time more than on previous occasions in recent days. I will certainly not upset his merriment.

As Senator Bacik said, it is about the responsible drinking of alcohol. In many ways moderate consumption of alcohol is good. The Bill was introduced by Deputy Alan Kelly and the Minister has helped it to get through both Houses. What I like about the Bill is that it will help to spread tourism around the country. Craft brewing and distilling allows not only for the development of a sense of place but a sense of taste because each area has a unique element to it. I remember when former Deputy Ciara Conway was promoting the Waterford blaa and she served it to people. The uniqueness of different areas is important. Small microbreweries can develop that uniqueness right across the 32 counties of Ireland. Senator Bacik gave me a route map for my summer holidays. I will now be visiting many of those women who brew such good craft beer.

Senator Humphreys should remember what the Minister, Deputy Ross, has done to drink drivers.

I do indeed. I will make sure I will not be driving. I will do it over a number of days and I would prefer to have no drink than to-----

What a waste of a holiday - visiting women. I cannot imagine anything worse.

It will be lovely. I compliment the Minister. It has been said a number of times that it is common sense but in spite of that it can happen that nobody introduces a good common sense Bill in the way Deputy Alan Kelly has done. I look forward to the speedy passage of the Bill. I hope to see more such Bills founded in common sense that will assist the expansion of the tourism industry outside the main urban areas and build up that sense of place and sense of taste to which I referred. I also compliment the Minister's staff who have assisted the Bill. I say well done to all involved. Let us get the Bill passed and the legislation signed by the President so that tourists can enjoy the taste of the ale, beer or cider that is brewed in the microbreweries.

I am sure it would be right and proper that the father of the House would raise a glass to the occasion as well.

I will certainly do that. I am probably not meant to speak but I am pleased to see Deputy Kelly in the Chamber.

It never stopped Senator Norris in the past.

I could not resist the invitation from my fellow Laois man, the Minister. I think it is a very good thing, as long as it is done judiciously, because the one thing I worry about - not particularly with this Bill but with regard to the situation with alcohol in general in Ireland, is that there is an impression abroad that to be Irish one has to be drunk and the people just come here to get drunk. I do not think that is terribly good for our reputation. I was going to just sit there and say hear, hear but now I am standing up I will say beer, beer.

I thank Senators for their contribution. I am very pleased to record the support of Members of all parties and none for this legislation. I was struck by the number of Senators who gave an uninhibited shout out to manufacturers and brewers in their own constituency.

Having regard to the debates that we have had in recent weeks and in the coming days my idea of heaven is not dissimilar to that which was quoted by Senator Bacik. However, with the greatest of respect to my colleague, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, I will not experience any form of heaven until such time as I have successfully completed in its entirety the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill and-----

The Minister will be in limbo for a while.

-----have witnessed the reopening of Stepaside Garda station, whereupon my vision of heaven will be to remove the tie, sit back and enjoy a cool bottle of Ballykilcavan ale, 12 Acres ale or Christy's lager, all of which have a direct association with my constituency. In the meantime, a Chathaoirligh, I acknowledge the support of Senators. I hope that we can move on to Committee Stage.

I wish to briefly address the issue raised by Senator McDowell in respect of section 1(6). I refer colleagues to the intoxicating liquor code from 1833 to 2018. Within that code is the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1998 which deals specifically and separately with the issue of the sale of intoxicating liquor to underage persons. This Bill, if and when enacted, will be construed, together with the 1988 Act.

Section 1(6) merely signals a departure from the 1988 Act insofar as it refers only to the hours, in this case being between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. each day other than Christmas Day. In all other respects, the licensing code from 1833 to 2018 will be taken as read, and that should deal with the point raised by Senator McDowell in respect of the application of this legislation to minors or persons under age.

Yes, if the Senator wants to clarify a point.

Briefly, I am concerned about the phrase, notwithstanding anything contained in those Acts, that it should be lawful to sell alcohol to a person who has completed a tour. It occurs to me the Minister disapplied the prohibition in those Acts on underage selling and that by merely construing the two Acts together, he is taking a slight risk that this will be interpreted by some clever lawyer, much cleverer than me, as saying that the prohibition in the Acts does not prohibit the sale to a person under the age of 18. For the remedy thereof, I suggest that we simply say that the term "person" means a person over the age 18 and that could be included in subsection (11) as a definition.

It is only in respect of the hours.

We will first deal with Second Stage.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?