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realistic figures Government TDs get figures revealing the true cost of alcohol after price rises are imposed

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Marc McSharry

Marc McSharry

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Coalition TDs have been sent fresh briefing material on Minimum Unit Pricing – this time with realistic figures.

It comes after the Irish Independent revealed that official cost projections relied on an unusually small can of low-strength beer.

As far back as 2015, former health minister Simon Harris had told the Oireachtas that Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) would mean a can of beer being sold at a minimum €1.32.

The same claim has been advanced in the current renewed effort to achieve minimum prices, now due to become law in January 2022.

But this was for a 440ml can, whereas the standard unit in Ireland is 500ml. And the official example reflected an alcohol content of just 4pc – considerably below leading market brands.

Now TDs and senators from Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Greens have been issued new advice, this time showing a standard can at 500ml volume.

The price illustration also uses the alcohol by volume (ABV) rating of draught Guinness, 4.2pc. It shows that each can would cost a minimum €1.66 after the introduction of MUP.

Standard-can volumes of 500ml are also offered for cider, with an ABV of 4.5pc, which would have a new minimum price of €1.78 after MUP.

A can of lager at 4.3pc ABV would sell for €1.70. Some lagers, particularly craft varieties, have ABVs up to 7.5pc, however, while Guinness Extra Stout is at 5.6pc.

State illustrations for a bottle of spirits have also adjusted upwards. After claims of a new price of €20.71, politicians are told that this will apply only to vodka – while whiskey and gin both climb to €22.09.

With Tánaiste Leo Varadkar admitting bottles of spirits in Northern Ireland can be had for €13, the price difference here amounts to more than €9 per bottle, or a cost in the Republic of almost 70pc more.

There was a row at the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting over the introduction of MUP, after the Government decided to press ahead without Northern
Ireland authorities acting in concert.

The Stormont administration has said it cannot meet the measure until 2023 at the earliest.

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Sligo-Leitrim TD Marc MacSharry said the measure was being “shoved down our throats”, and the Taoiseach took issue with him.

But Mr MacSharry said to press ahead without Northern Ireland making similar moves was “madness” and, in the immediate post-Brexit/Covid period, was particularly “crazy”. He said he was concerned about the survival of the retail community in the five Border counties of the Republic, and there would be a price differential of up to 30pc on alcohol products.

Mr MacSharry, who claims the support of colleagues, said he fully supported MUP but the need for proper timing was crucial.

A claim that the new structure will result in a fall of nearly 10pc in alcohol-related deaths each year has also been quietly dropped.

A drinks industry source said: “The Government figures are at least now accurate in relation to the cost.

“Interesting they are now omitting the deaths reduction point.”

The Irish Independent has seen a report that looked into the introduction of MUP in Scotland over the last two years.

It found no support for a belief that it saved lives in the short term, and estimated that a reduction in morbidity and mortality might only be seen 10 years after its introduction.

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