With the hidden depths of Ireland’s drink culture locked into statistics which point to one in four child welfare cases in Donegal being alcohol related and the county ranked third highest nationally in terms of numbers entering alcohol treatment units, the Director of the North-West Alcohol Forum yesterday posed the pointed question: “Do we need alcohol for every occasion?”
Citing instances of such events as Christenings and children’s birth parties being held in venues where many adults are consuming drink, Eamon O’Kane said the recently published Hidden Realities report drew attention to children’s exposure to risks from parental drinking.
“In former times drink was part of a night out, now it’s the reason many people go out. The objective for far too many is just to get drunk,” the Letterkenny based Director insisted.
Backing up his and the Forum’s concerns is the fact that the numbers presenting to H.S.E. addicition services in the North-West region, including Donegal, has been in the top five since 2005.
Reports released in the weeks before Christmas pointed to alcohol being involved in one in four child welfare cases in Donegal. Sligo/Leitrim has the highest rate nationally of all admissions for alcoholic disorders followed by Donegal.
Highlighting the report launched last week by the National Substance Misuse Strategy Steering Group which focused on actions to deal with the harm caused by alcohol, including increasing the price of alcohol so that it becomes less affordable and introducing a legislative basis for minimum pricing, Mr. O’Kane described it as “a landmark step” in the work to reduce alcohol misuse.
The N-W Alcohol Forum representative referred to marketing promotions run locally before Christmas including one that offered drink all night for 90 cents on the back of a fire euro entry charge. “These are dangerous and risky promotions,” he maintained.
Pubs were losing out to the high volume of drink being sold in supermarkets and other off licence outlets. “One of the ironies is that you’re stopped if you come out of a supermarket with anything over sixteen paracetamol but you can buy as much alcohol as you like and you won’t be stopped,” the Director declared.
Speaking to the ‘Democrat’, Mr. O’Kane also dismissed complaints from the drinks industry, comprising of six companies worldwide, which claimed it would lose money in the event of the cost of alcohol becoming dearer and if a minimum pricing strategy was introduced.
“Their profit margin would still be quite substantial - the drinks industry should focus on the bigger picture.”
Those who claimed that last week’s report was another step on the road to a “nanny state” should, he demanded, look at the success of the seat belt initiative and the no-smoking in public places campaign.