We’ve all been there, the embarrassment of standing aside, watching as a Garda pours out your can and sends you on your way. With the weather getting warmer and pubs selling takeaway pints, now could be a handy time to get familiar with the Irish law on consuming alcohol in public.

The law covering this area is found mainly in city by-laws and generally there is no blanket ban on drinking in public. However, under the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 s.4 it is an offence for any person to be in a public place while intoxicated or under the intoxicating influence of any alcoholic drink, drug or other relevant substance. Under this section the Gardaí have the power to confiscate such substances if they believe the person may prove to be an endangerment to themselves or others in the vicinity.

While in most cases the alcohol will simply be confiscated and the individual will be asked to move on, it is important to remember that this is still an offence. Being such the Gardaí do have the power to impose a fine not exceeding what was then £100 on summary conviction.

What is in question here is not so much the consumption of alcohol itself, but rather the conduct that comes from its consumption. Measures and by-laws banning alcohol in public places are designed to protect the community at large and maintain public order which comes at the cost of having to go home to have that takeaway pint!

Another aspect of the law in this area to consider is s.17 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2003. Under this section it is an offence to consume alcohol sold in a closed container from any such licensed place within 100 metres of said place. The effect of this section is to impose a penalty on vendors of alcohol as well as the purchaser should alcohol be consumed within the 100 metre limit.

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These measures may seem unduly oppressive but the intent of the legislature in this area is to ensure no one is endangered be it by others under the influence or by themselves. The measures aim to uphold public order and protect minors from alcohol and its related effects. While other countries across the EU like Germany have no such restricting measures, it will be quite some time before Ireland considers the loosening of its intoxicating substance legislation.

With all of this mind if you are inclined to enjoy a pint in the summer sun be sure to respect those around you, follow local by-laws and if you’re going to sneak a drink for the occasion be discreet! (For legal reasons this is a joke.)

Featured image credit: Connacht Tribune

Louise Kennedy – Law Columnist