Laws to extend opening hours of pubs and restaurants will not coincide with their reopening when public health guidance allows, the Minister for Justice has said.
Speaking at the launch of the department's Justice Plan 2021, Helen McEntee said she hoped the new laws will be in place next year.
She said: "This is not about having everything in place when Covid hopefully leaves us, or when we are in a position where our night-time economy can resume, but it's making sure that that industry knows that we're planning ahead, we're thinking beyond Covid and I expect that we would have this legislation implemented next year."
Asked if the drafting of this legislation would incorporate some form of public consultation, to take account of the views of those living close to these venues, Minister McEntee said the legislation was about bringing these laws into the 21st Century.
She said: "It's not just about having longer opening hours and giving people longer access to our pubs or nightclubs or other cultural venues.
"It's about making sure that we have a variety and that we can support this industry and sector" and this will be done with communities, An Garda Síochána and all stakeholders."
The department's Justice Plan 2021 contains measures to improve supports for victims and vulnerable witnesses in sexual violence cases, implement tougher laws to tackle gang-related crime and improve access to the justice system by setting new scales of legal costs.
Justice Minister @HMcEntee hopes to have laws in place next year, to allow for extended opening hours for pubs & clubs. She's says it’s not about having these measures in place to coincide with their reopening. Minister was speaking during launch of Justice Plan 2021 @rtenews pic.twitter.com/NQ91H8AOui— Tommy Meskill (@TommyMeskill) February 22, 2021
Regarding knife crime, Minister of State James Brown said there would be a review of knife legislation over the next couple of months.
He said there is currently a five-year prison sentence for possession of a knife, which is one of the highest penalties in Europe.
Minister Browne added that "perhaps there might be an opportunity to create a new offence of possessing a knife with intent to cause harm".
He said there also needs to be early intervention to prevent the luring of children into criminal activity, and said "we cannot arrest our way out of crime".
Minister McEntee also spoke of the need to tackle domestic, sexual and gender-based violence.
She said: "I firmly believe that in future generations, in years to come, we will look back on the scourge of domestic and sexual violence and we will ask ourselves how we tolerated for so long, it being a lesser form of crime or abuse. That period is over."
Minister McEntee said that the Justice 2021 Plan will ensure that victims are supported and that their abusers will be punished.