Alcohol should play no part in Junior Cert celebrations, warns Alcohol Action Ireland

“It’s natural that students who are getting their Junior Cert results this week want to celebrate with their friends. This is an important milestone for them and they should enjoy the celebrations after three years working towards their exams,” said Conor Cullen, Head of Communications and Advocacy with Alcohol Action Ireland.

“However, alcohol should play no part in these celebrations and there is a real and immediate obligation on alcohol retailers – pubs, nightclubs, supermarkets, shops, and off-licenses – to ensure that they are not selling alcohol to people under the age of 18. This applies at all times, but they should be particularly vigilant this week. Worryingly, the most recent European School Project on Alcohol and other Drugs (ESPAD) survey found that 84% of Irish 15 and 16-year-olds reported that alcohol was ’very easy’ or ’fairly easy’ to get.

“The legal drinking age is 18 for very good reasons. Alcohol use is a serious risk to children and young people’s health and well-being, due largely to the fact that they are more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol than adults as their bodies and brains are still developing. Binge drinking is particularly problematic. When young people are consuming large volumes of alcohol in a short space of time then they are putting themselves in immediate danger, not just in terms of alcohol’s direct impact on their physical and mental health, but also the poor decision-making, accidents and the other forms of risky behaviour that we know go hand-in-hand with binge drinking.

“Far from being a rite of passage, drinking alcohol from a young age may well serve to delay the development of vital coping skills, project young people into risky situations and lay the ground-work for future physical and mental health difficulties. However, despite this, alcohol use continues to move further into Irish childhood and there is a consistent trend for drunkenness among young Irish people, with teenage girls now drinking as much as their male counterparts, despite being more vulnerable to alcohol-related health risks.”

Alcohol Action Ireland is urging parents to talk openly with their children about what their plans are for the evening if they are going out to celebrate their Junior Cert results with friends.

“Make sure you know all the important details, such as what they will be doing, who they will be with, where they are going and how – and at what times – they plan on getting there and coming home. It is also important to let your child know they can call you without fear of recrimination if they feel unsafe or unwell at any point. They need to know that their safety is your number one priority and that they are to contact you immediately if they are in trouble,” said Mr Cullen.