Gardai in Longford are working with underage teenagers to identify rogue publicans, nighclub owners and off licence staff suspected of serving alcohol to minors.
The Leader has learned the initiative, spearheaded by Granard Gardai, has proved especially fruitful in the northern part of the county with incidents relating to underage drinking down by over 40 per cent.
Under the scheme, which was officially rolled out by former Minister for Justice, Dermot Ahern and recently retired Garda Commissioner Fachnta Murphy last September, gardai can recruit teenagers aged 15 to 17 from schools and youth clubs before sending them into licensed premises to try and buy alcohol.
Superintendent Ian Lackey said the drive has enabled gardai to keep a tighter rein on those suspected of being guilty of the offence.
Speaking at last week’s meeting of Granard Town Council’s Joint Policing Committee, Supt Lackey was keen to point out the covert operation was not initiated in reponse to a sudden hike in suspect cases locally.
“If a sale takes place then they (publican) are prosecuted, but it is not a major problem in this town (Granard) and I would like that message to go out from this meeting,” he said last Tuesday evening.
As he outlined the workings of the operation to elected members, Supt Lackey said the youngster, with the permission of parents or a guardian, would then walk into a licensed premises and attempt to obtain alcohol.
All of this, he said, takes place with a garda looking on in the background, as he revealed drunkenness offences had shown no sign of worsening when compared to last year’s figures.
“Public order offences are down 14 per cent as well which I put down to the fact we don’t have any nightclubs which can lead to certain problems in other towns,” he said.