Students’ union to cut all ties with DrinkAware

The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) is to sever all ties with DrinkAware in a row over the promotion of Arthur’s Day, which promotes Guinness.

The union is to develop its own independent alcohol awareness campaign after its national council agreed to end its relationship with DrinkAware, which it said is funded by a self-regulating drinks industry.

Joe O’Connor, the USI president, suggested that DrinkAware did little by way of campaigning in the run-up to Arthur’s Day.

“The Arthur’s Day festival by Diageo further deepened our concerns regarding the credibility of DrinkAware’s alcohol awareness campaign,” he said.

“Encouraging students to drink responsibly is still an encouragement for students to drink — regardless of how it’s qualified. Due to this, we have decided that it serves no purpose for USI to work with DrinkAware on any alcohol awareness campaigns.”

Fionnuala Sheehan, CEO of Meas, which runs Drink- Aware, said telling young people to avoid alcohol altogether does not encourage responsible drinking.

“Meas/drinkaware.ie is an alcohol social responsibility organisation, not an alcohol prohibition body, established to tackle problems arising from the abuse or misuse of alcohol,” Ms Sheehan said.

“Meas/drinkaware.ie does not encourage anyone to drink. Indeed it advises there are circumstances where people should not drink alcohol.

In a letter to Ms Sheehan, the union said while this may serve DrinkAware’spurpose, it does not serve the purpose of the USI.

Ms Sheehan said the campaign’s target audience is 18 to 24-year-olds — 87% of whom drink alcohol.

“From extensive research we have conducted we know that adopting a ‘do not drink’ approach to this age group is actually a turn- off and is regarded as ananny-state approach.”

She said the organisation’s current campaign about pacing is an example of howit encourages people to drink at their own pace.

Meanwhile, the Rape Crisis Network of Ireland praised the USI’s move.

Its director, Fiona Neary, described the campaign group’s promotion of alcohol consumption as a “normalising influence” that targets young people.

“USI’s leadership in this area is vital given the resources the alcohol industry can call upon to resist change to reduce alcohol harm in Ireland,” she said.


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