Medics suggest crackdown on public order to tackle problem drinking

A panel of senior medics is likely to recommend a crackdown on drunk and disorderly behaviour in public as part of plans to tackle the issue of problem drinking.

A national policy group has been formed within the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, and brings together experts from bodies including the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine and the Irish College of General Practitioners.

The 12-strong panel will work on its recommendations over the summer and said it will publish its conclusions in September.

The chair of the new policy group is Prof Frank Murray, registrar of the RCPI, and consultant gastroenterologist at Beaumont Hospital, who said he and his colleagues were seeing the effects of alcohol abuse every day.

“We see the reality of people injured, disabled, or dying on a daily basis in some of our cases,” he said.

Restrictions on availability, pricing, advertisements and sponsorship are among the issues that will be reviewed, and Prof Murray admitted many of those issues were already being considered by Government.

However, he said there were other areas that also needed to be explored. “I think the enforcement of legislation and our tolerance of drunk and disorderly behaviour [should be looked at],” he said. “If you visit other jurisdictions you do not see the same number of drunk people on the street.”

A crackdown on drunk and disorderly behaviour was one step that should be considered, he said, but he added that any such “blitz” would need to be followed up.

Prof Murray added that industries that benefit from alcohol would likely protest at some of the group’s recommendations but that “they should not be allowed to formulate health-related policy. Self-regulation of the alcohol industry has [been] proven not to work.”

The formation of the group comes as an Independent TD criticised the Cabinet for not discussing the Alcohol Action Plan before the Dáil recess.

Maureen O’Sullivan said the Alcohol Action Plan was the fruit of two years of work by a steering group and contained “significant recommendations”.

“The urgency of this matter is not being grasped by those in authority who can bring about changes,” she said.


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