Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Alcohol Abuse.


asked the Minister for Justice if he considers that the introduction of identity cards would assist in the curbing of the abuse of alcohol among young people.

I am not sure that there is a consensus among those who have advocated the use of identity cards in this connection as to what precisely they have in mind. A licensee is not obliged to serve a person if there is a doubt as to the person's age. Accordingly an identity card system would serve the purpose of permitting certain people to be served who otherwise might or might not be served. There are people who consider that it should be what is called an absolute offence for an under-age person to be served. That means that it would be an offence for a licensee or his servant to serve a person genuinely thought to be of age if it turned out that he was in fact under-age. Here again the main purpose served by an identity card would be to enable the holder to get drink when, in the absence of a card, he might be refused. If an absolute offence on these lines was created a large number of people in the 18 to 21 age-group would no doubt provide themselves with identity cards—whether the law provided for their issue or not—in order to be able to buy drink.

I do not think that a case for an identity card system has been established on the basis of its efficacy in the matter of ensuring that under-age persons do not get served with drink. It is, however, possible that the creation of an absolute offence of the kind mentioned would have at least some effect, though I have no doubt that such a development would not be welcomed by what I am certain are the vast majority of licensees who would be unwilling to serve a person who is under-age.

It would be very unfair to licensees.

I agree this is a very difficult problem to solve but would the Minister agree that this call for identity cards is a result of pressure to highlight the social problem created by the abuse of drink amongst young people? Secondly, would the Minister agree that the laws governing drink should be codified and up-dated, because there are areas within those laws which are very lax indeed?

With regard to the first part of the Deputy's supplementary question, I accept that the motivation behind his question was his concern for the abuse of alcohol by young people. That is a concern that any responsible person should share. With regard to the second part of his supplementary question I have put quite a lot of work and effort into the up-dating of the licencing laws since my time in office. I would hope more progress will now be made and I will be calling on my new Minister of State, Deputy Andrews, to help me in this field.

Has the Minister rejected the idea that we should have an up-dated licensing committee to help in this work?

I have not rejected this idea. I find that the difficulty, which I mentioned to Deputy O'Keeffe when first he raised this, with regard to the composition of this committee, is very much as alive today as it was on the day he first mentioned it. It is a question of representing interests and having a number of reports coming from the commission. Naturally it would be best if there could be unanimous reports. However, there are many conflicting interests. I have met quite a number of bodies in relation to this and they are poles apart.

Would the Minister accept that that can be got over by having an independent commission with everybody entitled to make submissions to it?

It would very likely be the longest sitting commission ever established in the history of the State.