Ireland is famous, both good and bad, as a nation of drinkers.
The Emerald Isle has given birth to iconic drinks including Guinness, Bushmills and Jameson whiskey, the Irish coffee, and to legendary drinkers including Luke Kelly, George Best and Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy.
All that being said, the nations relationship with alcohol is changing amongst younger generations, and licensing and drinking laws are as strict as most other parts of the world nowadays.
What is the Legal Drinking Age in Ireland?
The legal drinking age in Ireland is 18 years old.
Simply put, that means that it is an offence to serve alcohol to anyone under the age of 18. This is a definitive law and includes all drinking establishments including hotels and restaurants, bars, pubs, clubs and off-licenses.
As tourists and travellers will already know, this is a higher limit than some countries and a lower limit than others (such as the USA).
It’s also important to note that licensed premises (i.e. places and businesses with the right to sell and serve alcohol) have to operate by strict opening and closing times. You can find out more via CitizensInformation.ie here.
Drinking with or without Parents in Ireland
As stated, it’s illegal to drink alcohol in Ireland when under the age of 18.
There is one clause, and that’s when a person 18 or under is at home with parents in a private residence. In that case it is legal to consume alcohol, under parental supervision.
What is the Legal Drinking Age in Northern Ireland?
Much like across the border in southern Ireland, the legal drinking age in Northern Ireland is 18 years old.
This means you should treat the laws as the same, whether you’re north or south of the border.
It’s the easiest way to plans your travels.
Irish Drinking Age Compared to other parts of Europe?
Europe as a whole might be considered more liberal than other parts of the world when it comes to drinking, including the USA in the West and the majority of Middle Eastern countries, but the legal drinking age remains the same throughout most nations.
The majority of major European nations are similar to Ireland, including the likes of Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Ukraine and the UK, and ascribe to the same legal drinking age of 18 years old.
Some nations, such as Austria and Germany allow for 14-16 year olds to buy drinks such as beers, but not wines or spirits.
One notable exception, in terms of higher age limits, is Iceland, where the legal drinking age is 20 years old.
Worth keeping in mind if you’re younger and considering travelling or backpacking around Europe, or if you’re older and considering vacationing with children or other younger relatives.
Drinking in Ireland: What Else?
It’s important to remember that Ireland also enforces strict drink driving legislation.
Technically it’s legal to drive after consuming alcohol in Ireland, but the amount of alcohol is very small and will be judged specifically by your alcohol to blood content. For more details you can click here.
It’s also generally illegal to consume alcohol outside in public spaces, such as on the street or in public parks or squares. This differs compared to some other major European nations, where outside consumption is acceptable.
Exceptions can be made for public events such as music shows, sports events, summer fairs and so on, but this is done on a case by case basis. You’ll generally be able to tell based on whether or not there are licensed alcohol stands/stalls on site.