Ahern Sends in Children to Tackle the Rogue Publicans

Daily Mail (London), September 22, 2010 | Go to article overview

Ahern Sends in Children to Tackle the Rogue Publicans


Byline: Aiden Corkery Political Reporter

HIS idea to solve the problem of Tiger kidnapping by heaping taxes on ATM users was roundly ridiculed... and now Dermot Ahern has another highly contentious plan.

The Justice Minister wants to send children as young as 15 into pubs to buy drink, so the publicans can be prosecuted. He dismissed fears that the teenagers could be threatened by their peers, saying evidence would be given in court by undercover gardai rather than the children.

However, the minister's claim was immediately cast into doubt by Garda Commission Fachtna Murphy, who admitted the children might have to testify in court if publicans put up a strong defence. The scheme aims to target a hitlist of bars and off-licences that are known to serve alcohol regularly to under-18s.

Gardai will recruit teenagers aged from 15 to 17 in schools and youth clubs across the country and train them for the operations. The teenagers, who will be paid expenses, will be accompanied by undercover gardai who will observe what happens and bring a case against any pub that serves them.

The scheme will be launched on a pilot basis from October 1 and any bars found guilty can be closed for between two and seven days and fined up to , . Second and subsequent convictions can result in closure for up to days and fines of 5, . Outlining the plan yesterday, the Justice Minister said every precaution would be taken to ensure that the young volunteers were safe.

He said: 'The parent or guardian must have consented in writing to the young person being sent into the premises for that purpose, and all reasonable steps must have been taken to avoid any harm to their welfare.' The minister dismissed any suggestion that the volunteers could be bullied by other teenagers angry with them for blowing the whistle on pubs that they used.

He said the undercover gardai rather than the teenagers would give evidence, meaning the teenagers' identities would not be revealed.

'I would suspect that a lot of publicans who are caught out in relation to this will put up their hands and not challenge it,' he said.

But Commissioner Murphy said that in isolated cases, a volunteer could be called on to give evidence if a bar owner put up a strong defence. …

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