Radical steps needed to fight alcohol abuse

THE Irish Bishops’ Drugs Initiative (IBDI) was established in 1997 as a Catholic Church response to the growing problem of drug and alcohol misuse in Ireland.

Since that time over 250 parishes throughout the country — north and south — have become involved in this pastoral initiative.

IBDI welcomes the recent proposal by Minister Roisín Shorthall, who holds responsibility for primary care and substance abuse, to introduce legislation to enable minimum pricing for alcohol.

Widespread availability and relative low cost are two real factors which facilitate excess alcohol consumption in Ireland. Our experience in parishes informs us of the extent of suffering faced by families in contemporary Ireland due to alcohol abuse. At a macro level, in addition to this human cost, it is estimated that alcohol abuse costs the State €3.7 billion each year through illness, absenteeism and crime.

But how and why is this the case in Ireland in 2012? Alcohol is no ordinary commodity and should always be used responsibly and in moderation. But this challenge for consumers is complicated by the influence of relentless marketing campaigns which seek to positively position the role of alcohol in our society.

IBDI believes that cultural factors and the prevalence of alcohol advertising and marketing in the Irish context need to be looked at closely. Radical options should be considered such as:

* Alcohol should not be permitted as a sponsor of sporting events or of sporting organisations.

* Online, television and radio alcohol advertising relating to sport and youth events should not be permitted.

* Public policy should be coordinated at an all-Ireland level in order to avoid price differentials for alcohol at retail level and to ensure consistent drink-driving limits and penalties across the island.

Fundamentally, alcohol abuse is a public health concern which requires a unique New Year’s resolution between government, multiple-retailer, the drinks industry and the consumer to radically improve – once and for all – the Irish relationship with alcohol. Such a cross-sectional dialogue should be our starting point for 2012.

Patricia Conway

Chairperson Bishop Éamonn Walsh

Vice chairperson

Irish Bishops’ Drugs Initiative


Co Kildare

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