Consumption of alcohol in Ireland has increased more than 40% in the last ten years, in contrast to falling sales of alcoholic beverages in most other EU countries.

Anne Hope, a national alcohol advisor at the Department of Health presented the figures at a conference on alcohol policy yesterday.

The Irish Times quoted Hope as saying: "Between 1989 and 1999 alcohol consumption per capita in Ireland increased a massive 41%. Nine EU member states showed a decrease and three other countries showed modest increases of just 5% during the same period."

Between 1989 and 1999 consumption of wine leapt by 300%, cider increased 500% and the amount of beer consumed was up 26%. Meanwhile although spirits sales had fallen between 1992 and 1996, this period was followed by a sharp increase with a million litres of pure alcohol sold each year between 1998 and 2000.

This boom has been attributed to the growing popularity of hard-liquor-based pre-mixed drinks as well as the vodka and Red Bull phenomenon. The overall increase in consumption has coincided with an economic boom in Ireland, which has given people greater spending power.

More worryingly, the report also recorded an increase in assaults and other alcohol-related crime since 1995.