Irish pubs challenge Dublin over ban on smoking

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The Independent Online

Two defiant Irish publicans have thrown down the gauntlet to the government in the first direct challenge to the strict anti-smoking laws introduced in May.

Two defiant Irish publicans have thrown down the gauntlet to the government in the first direct challenge to the strict anti-smoking laws introduced in May.

The owners of Fibber Magee's pub in Galway city say they allow smoking on their premises because the ban caused "a disastrous loss of custom".

One owner, the aptly named Ronan Lawless, said he was in effect being legislated out of business by the government, with custom down by 67 per cent in the bar.

He added: "How can we sustain a business? I've run my business in a lawful manner. I hate to be forced into a corner but it's that or be forced out of business."

He said when he reintroduced ashtrays in the upstairs bar and declared it was a smoking area he had a round of applause. "People started texting their friends and within an hour the pub was full," he added.

The ban forbids smoking in any part of the premises, leading smokers to congregate outside bars and restaurants. Its introduction has been regarded as a resounding success, with widespread approval for the move.

At the end of the ban's first month, 97 per cent of premises visited by inspectors were found to be complying with the law, though more than 200 pubs and hotels were discovered to be in breach of it. Those in breach face hefty fines.

But the government intends to fight. The Minister for Health, Micheal Martin, said: "There will be no holds barred in taking this head-on and upholding the law in all its aspects. Every single legal avenue will be pursued to make sure this clear, open challenge to the smoking law is defeated."

Publicans' organisations are not encouraging members to flout the law. But the owner of a bar in Cobh, Co Cork is also defying the ban. Danny Brogan said: "We are not radicals; all we are looking for is a little bit of fair play and, more important, a compromise."

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