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Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The Irish Experience

The long awaited field trip to Ireland to look at their ban on smoking in public places kicked off this morning with a flight from Cardiff airport to Cork. I have not flown over Swansea before so I fully enjoyed the magnificent view of the City and of Gower. The new stadium in particular forms a very handsome landmark from the air and looks very impressive.

On landing in Cork the parting shot from the air stewardess was to inform us all that "Smoking is prohibited in public places in the Republic of Ireland". There was little time to reflect on this, as once we had deposited our luggage in the airport hotel, we were straight onto a bus and heading for the town of Mallow.

The eleven members of the Vintners Federation of Ireland we met were keen to explain how they perceived the ban on smoking in the workplace had hit their businesses. They told us that in Cork and Kerry, 80 licensed premises had gone out of business since the ban was brought in. They told us that they had not been consulted on the changes and they explained how they were seeking to accommodate smokers outside their pubs with shelters and heaters.

Their case was summed up by one of the publicans who said that at Irish weddings these days most of the guests would be singing in the garden whilst the non-smokers minded the bags. They also suggested that the ban had led to an increase in drinking in the home and that this had, in turn, resulted in more domestic violence and house fires.

Tomorrow we are going to Dublin to hear the other side of the story and perhaps get some statistics to validate or otherwise what we were told today. We are also going to be joined by HTV who are keen to do a feature on the issue, based around our visit.
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