What is a Public Consultation Period?

A Public Consultation Period is a defined period set out by a specific government department, to actively seek opinions, views and feedback from the “public” on a proposed policy decision or change that is being considered by that department.

Consultation is concerned with the objective of gathering information from the “public” to facilitate the drafting of higher quality legislation, by understanding the concerns as well as motivations of their public and how it will affect those whom it is targeting.

The “Public” whom are consulted, will be defined by each department that undertakes a consultation period. The definition will set out what groups or industries that they wish to receive submissions from. For instance, if the Department of Health was undertaking consultation about particular medications, it may define the “public” as Pharmaceutical manufacturers, GPs and users of these medications.

With the impending Public Consultation Period regarding the definitions of Irish Whiskey, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine will set their target “Public” groups on formal announcement of the Public Consultation Period. That said, it is expected by industry groups, that the “public” will be defined as just that, the public. Which would allow submissions by consumers, imbibers, producers and suppliers from across the island of Ireland or the geographic area could be confined to the Republic of Ireland, this is yet to be seen.

Ultimately, these forms of Public Consultation Period aids the government in gathering qualitative data directly from those interested or invested in the proposed policy. They help measure expectations by these groups as well as identifying potential non-policy alternatives to policy proposals.

How Long do these Periods Last?

Submissions will be accepted by the department between two set dates. They will announce these dates at the formal commencement of the Public Consultation Period. While we do not know the exact dates of the Irish Whiskey consultation period, industry groups assume this will last between 4 to 6 weeks.

How are Public Consultation Periods Structured?

To gather valuable, usable and informative feedback from the public the department will usually provide a standard set of background information with all consultation periods. They usually outline the draft of the regulatory proposal being put forward, as well as some form of discussion or commentary of policy objectives and the problem being addressed. An impact assessment of the proposal may also be included along with any potential alternative solutions that may be available.

How will the Irish Whiskey Public Consultation Period be Structured?

While this hasn’t been announced yet, the Irish Whiskey Public Consultation Period could possibly take the form of a background as to why the industry groups wish to change the definition of Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey, to make it more historically accurate, more information on this can be read here. They will likely also outline the importance of the Irish Whiskey Technical File, which holds the definition of Single Pot Still that the industry are trying to change. If you would like to learn more about why the Technical File is important, you can read that here. The new definitions or amendments to the Technical File will be presented and feedback will be requested.

Ensuring that feedback is clear on what area you support is very important for this process. Additional information may be available to submit with your support, which is important to categorise under your main points, examples of these could be “historical accuracy or “innovation and experimentation or “increased income diversification for Irish farmers. The person collating this data will collect for and against responses and then themes of reasons why the responses are for and against.

Do Public Consultation Periods Receive Many Responses?

Traditionally, Public Consultation Periods have low engagement and response levels. During the pandemic in July 2020, only 520 people on the island of Ireland gave their opinions on employees abilities to work remotely for their health.

As such, it is important for as many consumers, whiskey ambassadors, distillers, maltsters, tillage farmers, shop keepers and everyone in-between to have their voices heard on the impending Public Consultation Period on Irish Whiskey. As such, those vocally opposed to change are often over amplified by low response levels from those who are in favour of change.

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