The Irish government is planning on implementing the long-awaited minimum unit price (MUP) measure for alcohol products within weeks, according to a leaked government memo.
The measure will introduce a 10 cents per gram of alcohol floor price for all alcohol products. MUP targets the cheap supermarket alcohol problem in the country aiming to reduce the harm caused by these products.

As Movendi International previously reported the MUP measure which is section 11 of the Public Health (Alcohol) Act of Ireland adopted in 2018, was set to come in to force by Christmas this year. It appears the government has brought the plans ahead according to a leaked memo which is due to be tabled to the Cabinet. According to the memo, minimum unit pricing is set to be implemented within weeks.

The policy solution to set an alcohol floor price will eliminate ultra cheap alcohol that is currently fueling heavy alcohol use and thus is driving high levels of alcohol harm in Ireland. The measure is timely and communities have called for its urgent implementation for a while, in the face of further rising alcohol use and problems during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Recent sales data indicates that alcohol purchases increased by 57% year-on-year in the off-trade for the four week period to January 24, 2021.

Once implemented, the measure would set a minimum price of €1.32 on a 440ml can of lager, a €7.75 minimum on a 750ml bottle of chardonnay, and a €20.71 charge on a 700ml bottle of gin or vodka.

Cheap supermarket alcohol would see a substantial price increase. For example, the price of Tesco’s own-brand vodka will rise from €12.99 to €20.71, with a similar-sized bottle of gin increasing from €14.25 to €20.71 and a €3.99 bottle of wine rising in cost to €6.50.

Currently, bars, pubs and restaurants in Ireland are closed for dine-in due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But when they do open the MUP will not affect them at all. This is because on-trade alcohol is already priced above the alcohol floor price.

Why has Irish MUP been delayed?

The Irish government has been postponing implementation of MUP to match the timeline of Northern Ireland. The idea was to simultaneously adopt the laws in the North and South to prevent cross-border alcohol trade issues on the island. 

However, plans to introduce MUP have again been delayed in the North. Northern Ireland’s Minister of Health had informed that they would not be bringing in MUP till at least after their elections in May 2022. Therefore, Ireland has decided to adopt the policy as intended by the Alcohol Act before their Northern neighbors. 

Alcohol businesses in border towns have brought up the border trade and smuggling arguments in opposition to MUP. However, Scotland’s MUP success shows bordering jurisdictions without MUP do not affect the effectiveness. Scotland borders England which does not have an alcohol floor price policy. Results from Scotland show that MUP is working effectively to eliminate cheap alcohol. Statistics from the National Records for Scotland have reported a 10.2% decrease in alcohol-specific deaths in 2019. The answer to cross border trade and smuggling is better alcohol laws on how much alcohol can be brought over borders and better enforcement of existing laws.

Communities welcome the news on MUP implementation

Alcohol Action Ireland welcomes the measure and hopes the implementation will go through smoothly.

Price is a crucial marketing component to stimulating alcohol demand and its exceptional affordability has driven Ireland’s continued harmful use,” said Eunan McKinney, Head of Communications from Alcohol Action Ireland, as per Irish Mirror.

There have been many ‘false-dawns’ over the last three years and while everyone’s intentions have always been well placed, to date, the concerns of the alcohol producers and retailers have ultimately been met. We hope that this time public health will be the government priority.”

Eunan McKinney, Head of Communications, Alcohol Action Ireland

The Public Health (Alcohol) Act was adopted into law in 2018. The government has taken a stage-wise approach and is making steady progress in implementing the different provisions of the Act. 

Public Health (Alcohol) Act of Ireland

Sources “Price of wine and beer to rise within weeks as Cabinet moves to ban cheap alcohol

Joe: “What minimum alcohol pricing will mean for buying drink in pubs, restaurants, off-licenses and shops

Irish Mirror: “Government ‘to introduce minimum pricing on wine, beer and spirts over the coming weeks’

RTE: “Minimum unit alcohol pricing should be all-island basis – Dundalk Chamber