The position is that local authorities have the power to make bye-laws in relation to the consumption of alcohol in public places. With regard to public transport, the Revenue Commissioners can issue a licence for the sale of alcohol in a railway restaurant car for consumption in that car. Other than that the consumption of alcohol on public transport is not permitted.
Under section 37A of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1988, as inserted by section 14 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008, where a Garda suspects that a person is under 18 years of age and that that person, or anyone accompanying that person, is in possession of alcohol for consumption by a person under 18 years in a place other than in a place used as a private dwelling, the Garda may seek an explanation and if not satisfied with the reply, he or she may seize the alcohol. The Garda may also seek the name, address and age of the person suspected to be under 18 years of age. It is an offence for a person, when requested by a Garda, to refuse to give his or her name, address and age or to hand over the bottle or container, with a fine of €500 on summary conviction.
Moreover, section 8A of the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994, as inserted by section 19 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008, provides that a member of the Garda Siochana may, in certain circumstances, seize and remove intoxicating liquor in a bottle or other container from any person regardless of age. The powers of the Gardai under this section also include power to request the person to give his or her name and to leave the place concerned in a peaceable and orderly manner. These powers may be exercised where the Garda believes that the person concerned is acting in a place other than a private dwelling in a manner that is causing, or is likely to cause, a nuisance or annoyance to others or is, or is likely to be a danger to persons or property or to cause a breach of the peace. As with section 37A, failure by a person to cooperate with a request to hand over the alcohol or to give his or her name and address is an offence with a maximum fine of €500. The maximum fine in the case of a failure to comply with a direction to desist from their activities or to move on is €1,000.
I am concerned at the incidence of street violence and anti-social behaviour. There is little doubt that much of this is fuelled by excessive drinking, as well as the use of illegal drugs.
An Garda Síochána is using the strong legal powers available under the Public Order Acts and the Intoxicating Liquor Acts to keep our streets as safe as possible, including prosecutions where appropriate. As set out above, the powers available include the seizure of alcohol to prevent under age drinking in public places and to forestall public disorder or damage to property. Gardaí may also issue fixed charge notices for the offences of intoxication in a public place and disorderly conduct in a public place. These are a more efficient use of Garda resources and avoid court proceedings when an offender pays the penalty.
I am in regular contact with the Garda authorities about these matters and these contacts will continue.
However, this problem is not simply a matter of law and order. Rather, it requires action by parents, educators and those who sell alcohol, not only in public houses, but right across the retail sector. I have indicated that, in the coming months, I intend to put in place additional regulations which will curb the level of excessive drinking.