Monday, 22 February 2021
Ábhair Ghnó an tSeanaid – Matters on the Business of the Seanad
I want to raise the issue of changes to the opening hours of bars and nightclubs which are to be included in the 2021 justice plan of the Minister for Justice, Deputy McEntee. This is welcome news. We need reform of our opening hours as the tourism sector will play a huge role in Ireland's recovery from Covid. The current opening hours are a drawback in this regard. Asking tourists to leave a licensed premises at 11.30 p.m. on a Sunday night is a little short of bizarre.
I also note the intention of the Minister to provide additional licences to support the night-time economy. I would urge caution on this, however. The pub sector is after having the most challenging year in memory. Up to 50,000 people working in the sector have not been able to work at all for the past year with many of them, along with thousands of businesses, facing uncertain futures after a crisis not of their making. That crisis is not over yet. The last thing they need to hear is the sudden announcement by the Government of significant changes being made to their industry. I urge the Minister to engage in meaningful consultation in this matter with the representative bodies of the industry, the Vintners Federation of Ireland and the Licensed Vintners Association.
Since being elected to Seanad Éireann last April, I have been struck by how much effort the Government makes in welcoming new businesses to Ireland. When an overseas company announces it will open an office here and employ 90 people, the red carpet is rolled out with Ministers and IDA Ireland attending, along with press coverage and the full works. That is fine of course. We need to be as attractive as possible for foreign direct investment. It highlights the potential of Ireland and so on. However, I know people in the hospitality industry who run hotels, restaurants and bars, employing hundreds of people, but they have never spoken to a Minister in their lives. It is something perhaps worth reflecting on.