THERE is nothing particularly new about Ireland’s reputation as a hard-drinking nation. Except, perhaps, for one thing: we did not deserve that reputation until recently.
As our report today shows, alcohol consumption in Ireland has more than doubled since the 1960s when it consisted mostly of middle-aged men drinking in pubs.
The prevalence of cheap alcohol in supermarkets and off-licences has lead to a huge rise in alcohol consumption at home and, as liver specialist Professor Frank Murray put it, it is an “equal opportunities destroyer”.
Of particular concern is the rise in the number of alcohol-related cases of liver disease in young women.
Attempts by the Irish government to introduce minimum unit pricing of alcohol as a health measure is likely to be challenged by the drinks industry here, just as it was when the Scottish government introduced it.
However, legislation, of itself, will not be enough to reverse the huge growth in alcohol related deaths in Ireland. What is needed is a change of attitude here and a need to accept that we have a serious problem when it comes to drink.
Attitudes can – and do – change. Smoking in people’s homes or near children is no longer acceptable. Neither, by and large, is drink driving.
Yet drinking to excess remains socially acceptable, despite the damage and the misery it causes.
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