Drinking age in Ireland: the law, fun facts, and more info

Ireland may be known for its free-flowing Guinness and electric pub culture, but should you be keen to learn more about the legalities surrounding alcohol, here’s all you need to know about the drinking age in Ireland.

The Emerald Isle is famous for rolling green hills, dramatic coastlines, colourful history, and of course, its dynamic drinking establishments and entertainment venues. However, there are strict laws regarding the drinking age in Ireland.

The birthplace of Guinness, and home to over 7,000 pubs across the island, it comes as no surprise that Ireland is often affiliated with alcohol.

While social drinking is a familiar feat on the Emerald Isle, we must also acknowledge that there are strict laws in place for its consumption; here is all you need to know about the drinking age in Ireland.

The law – what you need to know

What is the drinking age in Ireland?
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As per Irish laws, you must be over 18 to buy alcohol in Ireland. More so, it is illegal for someone to serve an underage person alcohol or purchase alcohol on their behalf.

It is also unlawful for a person under the legal drinking age to pretend to be older to obtain alcohol.

According to the laws surrounding the drinking age in Ireland, the only exception to giving an underage person an alcoholic beverage is within a private home and with the consent of the underage person’s parent(s).

Fines and penalties – the punishment

Fines for underage drinking.
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If you choose to ignore the drinking age in Ireland, you may be subject to fines and penalties. These include the following:

  • Selling or giving alcohol to a person under 18: up to €5,000 and a closure order for a licence holder
  • Drinking under the age of 18, pretending to be over 18 to procure alcohol, or allowing children into a licensed premise without supervision: fine of up to €500
  • Altering a Garda Age Card: up to €2500 and/or imprisonment for up to 12 months

Fun facts – more lighthearted

Fun facts about the drinking age in Ireland.
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Aside from limitations surrounding the drinking age in Ireland, here are five fun drink-related facts that are unique to the Emerald Isle.

1. Did you know that during the Viking invasions in Ireland, alcohol brewing was a woman’s job and usually done in the home? The formal term for such a position was an ‘alewife’.

2. Poitín or ‘Irish moonshine’ is home-brewed alcohol in Ireland that can contain up to 40–90% ABV. While it isn’t commonly consumed today, poitín can often be found in cocktail bars used by top mixologists.

Women weren't allowed in pubs in the past.
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3. Only in 2003 did it become illegal on the Emerald Isle to refuse a woman entry into a public house.

If you stop by an old-school Irish pub, you may even notice that the women’s bathrooms are very cramped and out of place; this is because women’s toilets were often built later in the pub history when it became more acceptable for women to visit the pub.

4. Yet another fun fact is that more than 150 countries around the world serve Guinness – Ireland’s famous stout – and over 10 million glasses of it are sold every day around the world.

5. Dead bodies used to be stored in a pub’s cold room until they were due to be buried. Many pub owners would also be the local undertaker, but with the modern introduction of funeral homes, this connection has declined.

More information – the nitty-gritty

More information about the drinking age in Ireland.
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The Garda (Irish police force) offer those 18 years and older the option to apply for a Garda Age Card.

This card proves your age and, while it is not seen as a means of formal identification, it can be used to verify one’s age when purchasing alcohol or to gain entry into over 18s establishments.

While those under the age of 18 are prohibited from drinking alcohol, children are allowed to accompany adults to public houses and drinking establishments with some restrictions. These include restrictions that those under 15 years of age must be supervised at all times.

Kids can attend family parties outside of pub restriction times.
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Also, children are only allowed on these premises between 10:30 am and 9:00 pm, or until 10:00 pm between May and September. The exception to this rule is that if it is a private function, in which case a minor can stay past the times mentioned above.

It may also be of interest to know that in Ireland, it is illegal to reduce the prices of drinks for a specific time of the day. That means ‘happy hours’ are forbidden on the Emerald Isle!

One last myth we must bust is that drinking outdoors in Ireland isn’t illegal, saying that the majority of local councils and cities ban the public from drinking outdoors in a bid to limit anti-social behaviour and to keep Irish streets clean.

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