Alcohol Action Ireland CEO Fiona Ryan: Statement

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As you will see from this edition of Alcohol News, Alcohol Action Ireland is looking to recruit a new CEO and policy officer and I would encourage those of you with an interest to apply.

I am moving on after five years as director, which have been amongst the most rewarding of my professional career.

Alcohol Action Ireland worked as a member of the Steering Group of the National Substance Misuse Strategy to ensure that evidence-based solutions that have a real impact on alcohol-related harm: pricing, availability and marketing including sponsorship became key recommendations of the strategy.

Alcohol Action Ireland has facilitated over 30 national charities and representative organisations to come together to advocate for a minimum  “floor ” price for alcohol.   We have carried out original research on children ’s experience of parental alcohol use, alcohol and crime/ harm to others and young people ’s experience of alcohol marketing.

We are poised this year to launch the biggest research project ever undertaken on young people ’s experience of alcohol marketing in Ireland; we are due to re-launch our websites and to make it easier for people to get the information on alcohol they need whatever they need it for.

There are challenges ahead for those of us working in reducing alcohol-related harm not least of all from the alcohol industry which will seek to oppose minimum pricing as it has been doing in Scotland, England and Wales despite evidence that tackling pricing will reduce harm and save lives.

Having witnessed first-hand the industry ’s lobbying efforts in different jurisdictions, the challenge posed to achieving change should not be underestimated. Alcohol Action Ireland will be engaging with these challenges – we hope to work with as many of you as possible to make the change happen.

On a personal note, the work I remain most proud of in my five years is the original research we carried out on children ’s experiences of parental drinking. When we started work in this area people asked us why were we doing it? It was irrelevant to alcohol problems in Ireland.

Five years on, we recognise that harm to others, hidden harm, the harm that goes on behind the front door, can be every bit as devastating and have even more profound effects than that harm we see on our streets. And it is the most vulnerable, children with no help or supports that are left to cope with or go under from this burden.

We fought hard in the National Substance Misuse Strategy to ensure a Hidden Harm strategy for the Republic of Ireland was adopted as a key recommendation. Children have a right to a childhood free from alcohol-related harm. In this work, Alcohol Action Ireland owes a debt to outgoing policy officer and former social worker, Cliona Murphy.

All that remains for me to say is thank you to my colleagues, the board for its unstinting support, coalition members and all of you I have had the privilege to work with over the past five years. I am very proud to have worked for Alcohol Action Ireland and know it will go on to even better with a new CEO.