Drinking Laws in Ireland: 9 Things You Need To Know

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With Guinness producing 3 million pints a day, 25 whiskey distilleries spread across the country and about 7,000 pubs, alcohol is definitely part of the Irish culture.  

What’s the legal drinking age in Ireland? Can you drink in public spaces? Can you buy alcohol any time of day? When traveling to Ireland, it is good to know the law.

Despite general beliefs, Irish liquor regulations are amongst the strictest in Europe. Whether you are a tourist or a national citizen, the same rules apply in terms of alcohol consumption.

To keep you away from trouble, we’ve gathered nine essential things to know about alcohol consumption in Ireland.

picture of male drinking in ireland

#1 What is the Minimum Legal Age to Buy and Consume Alcohol?

Like most of the countries in the world, the drinking age in Ireland is set at 18-year-old*. To prove your age, you must always carry your National Age Card (Irish only) or a proof of ID (passport, driving licence etc.) with you.

If a minor pretends to be an adult and tries to purchase alcohol, he is liable for Class E fine (up to €500) on a summary offense in a District Court. If a minor is found in an off-licence premise (such as supermarkets, grocery stores, and bottle stores), with or without the attention to purchase, the same prosecution will apply.

When in a private dwelling though, and only with parents’ consent, minors are legally allowed to drink.

*same age in Northern Ireland

#2 Can a Minor Go to a Bar when Under 18?

You can go to a bar when under 18 between 10:30 AM to 9:00 PM (10:00 PM from May to September) but only if you are with a legal guardian or a parent. Minors (15 to 17-year-old) can stay longer if they are attending a private event with a solid amount of food.

If a non-adult is found in an establishment serving alcohol, his/her parents will have to prove that they were unaware of his actions. Otherwise, they will be accountable for a class E fine on summary conviction. The owner of the bar will also be indicted.

#3 Can a Minor Work in a Bar when Under 18?

With the parents’ authorization, anyone from 16+ can work in a bar, but cannot serve alcohol. A legally authorized teenager should always start after 6:00 AM and stop at 10:00 PM.

However, the working time can be extended to 11:00 PM if there is no school on the following day. In this case, the young employee will not commence his shift before 7:00 AM the next day.

#4 Public Drinking in Ireland: Is it Allowed?

When there is no national law refraining adults from drinking in public, each local jurisdiction applies their own bye-law (see below for the rules of the 10 biggest cities). However, there are some governmental legislations to respect to avoid prosecution anywhere in Ireland:

  • According to the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008, alcohol will be seized if (assumed to be) consumed by a minor.
  • If you purchase an intoxicating beverage from an off-premise (such as supermarkets, grocery stores and bottle stores), you must ingest it at least 100 meters away from where you got it.
  • Behave yourself (see below)

#5 By-laws in the 10 Biggest Cities in Ireland

What is the fine for Drinking in Public when Forbidden?

Public drinking is prohibited in most Irish metropolises. The fixed payment notice of 21 days remains the same for every city, but the amount of the fine varies depending on where you are. When caught, depending on both your behaviour and the Gardaí, you’ll get your booze confiscated and either head back home with a warning (when you’re lucky), receive directly a fine (when sh** happens) or, go straight to the police station (when you’re naughty).

Dublin, Tallaght, Drogheda, Swords: Strictly forbidden/ €75 for fixed payment notice. If failed to pay, the amount can reach up to €1,900 in summary conviction.

Cork: Strictly forbidden/ €75 for fixed payment notice. If failed to pay, the Gardaí who issued the fine will summon and follow up on penalties.

Dún Laoghaire: Strictly forbidden/ €63.49. If failed to pay, the amount can reach up to €1,269.73 in summary conviction.

Limerick: Strictly forbidden/ €75 for fixed payment notice. Failure to pay the fine might lead to prosecution. None took place so far (at the time of writing).

Galway: Strictly forbidden/ €100 for fixed payment notice. It will then double if not paid before 35 days later (56 days since main fine). The amount can reach up to €1,500 in summary conviction.

Waterford: Strictly forbidden/ €75 for fixed payment notice. If failed to pay, the amount can reach up to €2,500 in summary conviction.

Bray: Forbidden/ Confiscation of intoxicating beverage. If conflict with the expropriation from the Gardaí, expect a fine up to €1,133.21 in summary conviction. 

Public Drinking Exceptions: Where and When Can You Drink in Public?

For every rule, there is an exception. The above draconian laws are ignored either thoroughly or in part on approved special community events, major civic celebrations and significant sporting events.  These include St Patrick (except in Dublin), Galway Races and other large-scale festivities.

However, when there are barriers to access a festival, Gardaí searches and seizes any personal alcohol. If you refuse, you will not get in. If you insist, expect to receive a Class D fine (up to €1,000).

#6 What is the Fine for Being Drunk in Public?

Under the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994, when drunk, and representing a danger to both yourself and others, the Gardaí will take possession of your tipple. They are also inclined to give you a Class E fine (€ 500); the same rule applies when drunk in a pub.

To get more details on the legislation, please refer to Ireland Citizen Information website.

#7 Drinking and Driving: What Happens When You Exceed the Drinking Limit?

There are various drink-and-drive violations. Those transgressions can alter depending on your driving experience. By acting against the law, you are responsible on summary conviction to a penalty of up to €5,000. 

Alcohol does not have the same effect on everybody. Intoxicated driving (or attempt) of a motor vehicle to such an extent as to be unable to control a vehicle, is an offense in itself (no matter the amount of alcohol swallowed).

If the concentration of alcohol in your blood, urine and breath exceeds the legal amount, your risk both fines and penalties. Below is what will happen if you cooperate, take the test, show your driving license and had no similar notice for at least 3 years:

The Gardaí in charge of the violation may ask the offender to leave the car, and take him/her into custody without a warrant. 

If you misbehaved and your case is taken to Court, then you are liable of a fine up to €5,000, 6-month imprisonment and a period of disqualification as per below:

*Other drivers include:

  • Holders of a learning permit
  • Holder of a licence  for 2 years and less (since the date of issue)
  • Holder of a driving licence without any breach within the 5 years following the last official infringement
  • C, C1, D, D1, EB, EC, EC1, ED, ED1, W and Taxi drivers

#8 Can You be Breathalysed Anywhere?

A Gardai can breathalyse you only when there are checkpoints unless they judge that your behaviour is suspicious. Those checkpoints take place wherever the police believe they can reduce accidents (roads, near bars, etc.).

If you refuse the breath test, you are committing a breach. Again, you might be asked to park your car, head to the station and are liable to a summary conviction and a fine up to a €5,000.

#9  Are there Specific Alcohol Sales Time in Ireland?

Yes, there are. From Monday to Saturday, you can buy alcohol at off-licence (such as supermarkets, grocery stores and bottle stores) only from 10:30 AM to 10:00 PM. The sale starts at 12:30 PM and stops at 10:00 PM on Sundays.

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