‘F’ for failure – alcohol charity urges new Government to get a result and tackle detrimental impact of alcohol on young people

Alcohol Action Ireland, the national charity for alcohol-related issues, today called on all political parties to commit to tackling the detrimental impact of alcohol on children and young people.

The charity is making its call on foot of the Report Card 2011 by the Children’s Rights Alliance, which showed that action on alcohol was one of the worst performing areas of government policy in relation to children and young people.

Director Fiona Ryan said: “Alcohol affects children and young people in two ways. The first is in terms of their own consumption and the physical and psychological harms they are exposed to from that use – Irish teenagers have a major problem with drunkenness, with a recent European survey finding that almost half of Irish 15 and 16-year-olds report binge drinking in the previous month.  

“The second is the harm caused to the estimated 61,000 to 104,000 children in Ireland under the age of 15 living with parental alcohol problems.   The vast majority of these children suffer in silence, their plight either unheard or ignored. The next Government needs to take a serious look at the extent and impact of parental alcohol problems on children. Denial isn’t good enough anymore.”

Ms Ryan said that initiatives that will make a real difference to reducing alcohol-related harm across the population are conspicuous by their absence.  

“The current Government’s alcohol policies remain disjointed. On the one hand, the Government states that alcohol-related harm is a serious public health issue, but on the other, almost every move it has made around pricing and regulation has been to maintain the widespread availability of alcohol at relatively cheap prices. Recent successive budgets prove this – Budget 2010 reduced excise duty on alcohol, effectively reducing its price, while Budget 2011 maintained the cut.

“Cheap alcohol, widely available and easily accessible, is fuelling a health and wellbeing crisis of which children and young people are the first casualties. There are steps we can take: introduce a minimum price for alcohol – a floor price below which alcohol cannot be sold; curb availability and accessibility and restrict the promotion of alcohol.   Alcohol is a controlled substance and we act as if it’s a grocery.

“The World Health Organisation states that price and availability of alcohol are the two key policy areas to tackle if Governments want to be effective in reducing alcohol-related harm.

“There is an opportunity for an incoming government to show leadership and protect the children of Ireland from the harms caused by alcohol and to take the steps necessary that we know from the World Health Organisation will reduce that harm.”

Notes to editor:

  • The Government was given an ‘F’ grade, a fail, in the Children Rights Alliance’s Report Card 2011 – Has the Government Kept it Promises to Children? in the area of alcohol.
  • In the most recent survey of drinking among European 15 and 16-year-olds, 44% of Irish girls and 42% of Irish boys reported binge-drinking in the last month (ESPAD, 2007). Over half (54%) reported being drunk at least once by the age of 16. The survey also identified “a major issue around drunkenness”.

For further information or comment contact:
Alcohol Action Ireland Communications Officer Cathy Gray (01) 878 0610/ 087 995 0186