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Alcohol and the Law

It is against the law for a young person under 15 to be in a pub without a parent or guardian. A young person between 15 and 17 can attend a private function, such as a wedding, in a pub after the times above if a proper meal is being served. It is also against the law for an adult to buy alcohol for a young person under the age of 18. The penalty is a maximum fine of €1500.

It is against the law for a young person under 18 to:

#1 Buy alcohol
#2 Drink alcohol in a public place
#3 Pretend to be over 18 in order to buy alcohol
#4 Be in a pub after: 9pm from 1 October to 30 April, or 10pm from 1 May to 30 September
#5 Be on licensed premises during an exemption.

"In a private residence, alcohol cannot be served to a visiting young person (under 18) without the explicit consent of that young person’s parent or guardian."

The information below should be helpful, as many parents are unsure of the law on underage drinking and what happens if this law is broken.

Juvenile Diversion Programme

Applies to those over the age of criminal responsibility and under 18
Gives young offenders a second chance
Includes conditions, such as accepting responsibility, agreeing to cautioning and supervision from Juvenile Liaison Officer and no previous cautions
Allows teenagers avoid a criminal record

Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994

Cannot be drunk in public place - maximum fine of €127
Cannot take part in ‘offensive conduct’ between 12am and 7am - maximum fine of €635
Cannot use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour in public - maximum fine of €635 and/or 3 months jail

Intoxicating Liquor Act 1988

It is illegal to sell or supply alcohol to under 18s
Gardaí can take away alcohol from under 18s drinking in public and can also contact their parents

Source: HSE website,

An Garda Síochána National Age Card

The Gardaí operate the National Age Card Scheme. These cards are proof that the cardholder is 18 or over. Anyone found guilty of forging or altering the details of an official Age Card can be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding €1,270 or to a prison term not exceeding 12 months, or both.

Draft legislation currently before the Oireachtas proposes that it will be an offence to possess a forged or altered Garda National Age Card - with the intent to deceive. If this law is enacted, a fine of up to €3,000 or 12 months imprisonment will apply in the event of conviction for such an offence.

See our article on talking to your children about drink