Department of Health Minister Róisín Shortall told a parliamentary committee last week that she was “personally committed” to introducing minimum pricing to end below-cost selling by major retailers, provided such a measure was legally possible.
Such sales, she claimed, encouraged excessive drinking, particularly among the young.
According to the minister, the strategy currently being prepared will also end the voluntary code that multiples had agreed with the previous government on store displays of alcohol.
Statutory regulations would be brought in, she said, to ensure alcohol was “no longer displayed alongside sweets, biscuits and milk, as if it were a normal product, rather than a potentially dangerous one”.
Shortall said planned legislation would also deal with alcohol advertising and sponsorship, and there would be intensified Garda enforcement against under-age drinking including distance selling and so-called dial-a-can operations, through which she believed teenagers were accessing alcohol.
She revealed that some drinks companies and lobbyists had sought meetings with her as the proposals were being prepared, but she had chosen not to be available.
“Alcohol abuse is a major problem in this country,” she told the committee. “As a society, we drink too much. We need to face up to that and remove this terrible blight on our society and the damage alcohol abuse has done to individuals, families and the health of the Irish people.”