Cabinet to sign off on delayed alcohol strategy

The Government is due to sign off on its much-delayed national alcohol strategy next month.

Alex White, the junior health minister, yesterday said the strategy — which is expected to consider measures including minimum pricing and restrictions on sponsorship and marketing by drinks manufacturers — will be presented to Cabinet next month.

Mr White said that the Department of Health was close to finalising its action plan for tackling the problem of alcohol abuse in Ireland, but warned that it would include “some hard decisions”.

However, Mr White stressed that it was important that “we bring people with us”, even though he acknowledged such decisions are never made without “upsetting somebody”.

The strategy is the Government’s formal response to the 45 recommendations to tackle alcohol abuse contained in a report by the National Substance Misuse Steering Group which was published a year ago.

Mr White’s predecessor, Róisín Shortall — who resigned her ministry last September in frustration at a lack of progress on a number of health issues — complained last year about unnecessary delays in bringing the recommendations to Cabinet.

Mr White was speaking at the launch of the seventh annual ‘Let’s Talk About Drugs’ National Media Awards, which are co-sponsored by the Irish Examiner.

This year’s competition, which carries a €1,000 prize for the overall winner, is seeking submissions in various formats — newspaper article, video or animated feature, audio recording, cartoon, or poster — on the themes of “alcohol and sport” and “weed and health”.

Mr White said key issues around drugs and alcohol could be discussed and highlighted in a meaningful and thought-provoking way through entries to the competition.

As a father of teenage children himself, he said he recognised that many young people had creative ideas about tackling the problem of drugs and alcohol, while also having genuine fears about the issue.

The competition is being co-ordinated by the Greater Blanchardstown Response to Drugs, with support from drugs.ie, the HSE, the Department of Health, Crimestoppers, and the Irish Examiner.

One of the competition’s judges, John O’Mahony, news editor of the Irish Examiner, said the newspaper was excited to be involved in such a worthwhile project that had done so much good work over the years.

“The issue of young people and drugs is something we continue to highlight as a newspaper, and any initiatives that engage young adults in debate is worthy of support,” Mr O’Mahony said.

The closing date for entries to the competition is May 31. Entry forms are available on drugs.ie.

All winning entries will be either published or broadcast in the media.

Last year’s winner in the video/animated feature category for those aged 15-17 was Sarah Dillon from Dominican College, Dublin. Sarah’s short film, The Difference, highlighted the need for improved drugs education for children.

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