Ports and airports have witnessed a dramatic surge in duty-free alcohol sales, which now apply to travel to and from Britain, following Brexit.
And Ireland’s new minimum retail alcohol pricing policy means that there is expected to be a huge rise in the number of people buying cheap alcohol while travelling.
In some cases, people bound for Britain can avail of premium alcohol brands at more than a 50pc discount in a throwback to the days of duty-free shops in the 1980s and ’90s.
At Dublin Airport’s The Loop outlet, a one-litre bottle of Smirnoff vodka costs €32 for passengers on routes within the EU – but is now available for just €13 on non-EU routes.
Away from the airport, it can cost even more – with Tesco currently listing a one-litre bottle of red-label Smirnoff at €34.
The Loop is also offering a one-litre bottle of Paddy whiskey for €13 duty-free on non-EU routes – a saving of almost 70pc on the EU price of €40.
SuperValu lists a one-litre bottle of Paddy at its supermarkets for €42.
Meanwhile, both Stena Line and Irish Ferries currently have special multi-buy duty-free drinks promotions.
One Irish Ferries promotion offers four bottles of spirits – including gin, vodka, whiskey and rum – for a total sum of €40.
It means that a consumer can get four spirits for a similar price to what they would pay for one bottle in the supermarkets and off-licences here under minimum alcohol pricing laws.
Stena Line is offering deals such as two-litre bottles of Koskenkorva vodka for a total £16 (about €19) or two-litre bottles of Finsbury gin for a total £14 (about €16.75). Meanwhile, 24 cans of Heineken (33cl each) are advertised for sale at £13 (about €15.50)
Airport and ferry operators admitted the surge in duty-free sales offers a welcome commercial boost.
In-flight alcohol sales are also soaring for airlines which have been struggling with the impact of the pandemic.
“Aviation operations will be looking at every possible income stream to mitigate the ongoing impact and cost of the Covid-19 pandemic,” one airport official said.
“Retail operations and duty-free sales will be a very important part of that.
"I think we would all rather see airplanes full to capacity with passengers landing Monday to Sunday given what we have gone through over the past two years in Ireland. But until the Covid-19 pandemic eases and we return to more normal travel operations, duty-free commercial operations are going to be very, very important as an income stream.”
Ireland abolished duty-free sales to the UK – in line with Brussels directives – more than 23 years ago as it was seen as incompatible with the operation of the EU Single Market.
Ireland had pioneered the success of duty-free airport operations in the 1970s and 80s, with UK routes amongst the most valuable for these sales.
However, after the EU Single Market came into force, duty-free sales remained for only non-EU destinations and for special exemption areas within the EU such as the Canary Islands.
When Brexit became inevitable, Irish ports and airports identified the re-emergence of duty-free sales to the UK as one welcome consequence.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had staunchly backed an unrestricted duty-free regime in the wake of the Brexit deal with Brussels.
Ireland’s new minimum alcohol pricing policy – which is based on alcohol content – brings the country into line with similar regimes in Scotland which were introduced on public health grounds.
Addiction and public health campaigners had expressed growing concern over recent years in relation to the availability of cut-price alcohol products, particularly non-premium branded spirits, beers and ciders – and the spiralling numbers of young people seeking help for alcohol abuse problems.
Minimum alcohol pricing was specifically aimed at tackling the binge drinking culture.
Eileen Fahey, founder of the Aiseirí treatment centre network, warned that there had been an alarming surge in people drinking at home as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic
Drinkaware said it has seen a significant spike in public interest in information on alcohol, particularly regarding the new pricing laws that went live on Tuesday of this week.
Drinkaware is funded by the drinks industry, and said that it welcomed minimum alcohol pricing but that “legislation alone cannot deliver the sustainable change with regard to alcohol that Ireland needs”.
Its CEO Sheena Horgan said: “Covid has shifted drinking behaviour significantly. For many this means drinking more and for others drinking less. But the pandemic has also pivoted attitudes from being complacent about risky drinking, to actively wanting to know and understand consumption better.”
Some Irish retailers warned that an all-island approach to the issue of minimum alcohol pricing should have been adopted.
Traders in border counties warned that shoppers would merely travel to purchase alcohol in nearby Northern Ireland outlets as a direct consequence of the new reforms.
Northern Ireland has been considering a similar minimum alcohol pricing move but has yet to reach agreement on it.
Addiction campaigners backed the move on the basis that the cut-price alcohol policy had effectively allowed budget alcohol products to be sold cheaper than milk or even branded mineral water.