It is too early to say with confidence what precise impact the 9 p.m. restriction has had on tourism business this year. There are, at present, no official figures which measure the actual situation. Nevertheless, I am aware that many people in the hospitality trade, both at individual and representative group level, have described this particular measure as having a negative impact on trade. If there are difficulties, my understanding is that they are more likely to be concentrated in areas outside of Dublin, particularly as regards family holidays over the summer period.
The Intoxicating Liquor Bill 2004, which has recently been passed by both Houses, provides for an extension to 10 p.m. of the time that persons under the age of 18 years may remain in licensed premises from May to September. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has also agreed to consider issues of concern to the tourism industry in the context of the comprehensive review of the intoxicating liquor legislation that is currently underway.
I know from experience the difficulties in coming up with enforceable formulae to tackle the presence of minors on licensed premises and I warmly welcome the Minister's openness to addressing legitimate concerns without, of course, undermining the basic thrust of Government policy in relation to underage drinking.