FF proposes 7.5% alcohol levy to fund suicide prevention

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From The Irish Times


A 7.5 per cent levy should be imposed on alcohol sales in offlicences to fund increased services in the area of suicide prevention, Fianna Fáil has proposed.

The party’s Seanad health spokesman, Marc MacSharry, said increasing the budget and broadening the availability of prevention services could reduce the number of suicides recorded in the State by up to 30 per cent over a 10-year period.

Speaking at the publication of a Fianna Fáil policy document on suicide prevention, Mr MacSharry said it was time politicians acknowledged they did not have the solution to the State’s problems with suicide.

“For all the talk here in the Oireachtas and in the media and so on, we are not having the penetrative impact on the figures that we need to,” he said.

“What politicians must do is provide the experts with the appropriate structure and the resources to make the policy work.”

Figures from the Central Statistics Office show that 525 suicides were registered in the State in 2011. A total of 439 men and 86 women were recorded as having taken their own lives, the majority of whom were aged 15-44.

Societal issue

The Fianna Fáil document – Actions Speak Louder than Words: A Structural Approach to a Societal Issue – proposes the establishment of out-of-hours social work teams to provide help to people in distress, wider availability of guidance-counsellor services in schools and the provision of counselling services to people in mortgage distress.

It also calls for the National Office for Suicide Prevention to be restructured and given a ring-fenced budget to support its activities, the removal of alcohol sponsorship and advertising aimed at young people, the regulation of counsellors by a statutory body, and that the media be urged to take a more responsible role covering suicide.

Off-licence sales

Mr MacSharry said the measures would cost €85.6 million per year. A 7.5 per cent levy on off-licence sales should be used to fund services, given the link between alcohol and suicide.

He believed consumers would “far from complain” but rather “celebrate the fact” they were making a contribution to something “society has failed on for years” through a levy on their purchases.

The State is due to spend €733 million on mental health services this year, €8.1 million of which has been allocated to the National Suicide Prevention Office.