An expert in public health has called for the Taoiseach Micheál Martin to urgently introduce a minimum unit pricing on alcohol, in a bid to deter house parties.

Dr Joe Barry, Professor of Public Health in Trinity College, Dublin told RTÉ's Today programme with Sarah McInerney that the measure has worked in other countries to reduce harmful drinking.

He said when they began to campaign for minimum unit pricing, it was mainly to protect those addicted to alcohol and young people who were buying it with their pocket money. 

However, he said over the last month, house parties have become a problem.

Dr Barry said "we're in the middle of a Covid problem, we're looking for solutions that will make things better".

He said there are three parts of the Public Health Alcohol Act, which are due to come into force shortly on specific dates, but he said minimum unit pricing has not yet been given a commencement date.

He said if minimum unit pricing was introduced, it would reduce the amount of cheap alcohol for sale.

He said "cheaper drink means more drink by one individual".

He said during lockdown, there was a lot of evidence of an increase in violence in the home linked to alcohol.

Dr Barry said under the measure, a pint of lager would cost a minimum of €2, which he said would not affect pub drinking.

He said the measure works in other countries, such as Canada, Australia and Scotland, which has seen a reduction in the rate of admissions to emergency departments and there has also been a drop in the number of assaults.

Dr Barry said it would be great if both sides of the border worked to implement this measure, but regardless, the Irish Government needs to do it. 

Meanwhile, the chief executive of the Convenience Stores & Newsagents Association Vincent Jennings told the same programme that there is no evidence that those attending house parties, who he said are in the minority, are buying cheap alcohol. 

He said "the introduction of minimum unit pricing from a public health perspective will work, but trying to bring it in from a public order perspective is a very, very different proposition".

He said he did not know whether the gardaí and the Department of Justice, who are charged with looking after public order, would consider such a move to be effective.

He said he does not believe in bringing in rules which affect the majority, but penalise the minority.