Opportunities and Challenges Ahead

In this edition of Alcohol News, you will see we are looking for a new CEO. I am moving on as director of Alcohol Action Ireland after spending five of the most rewarding years of my professional life.

During that time, Alcohol Action Ireland worked, as a member of the Steering Group of the National Substance Misuse Strategy, to ensure that policies proven to have a real impact on alcohol-related harm – pricing, availability and marketing including sponsorship – became key recommendations of the strategy. You could say we have been working since to have these recommendations implemented.

As part of this work, we have facilitated over 30 national charities and representative organisations to come together to advocate for a minimum “floor” price for alcohol.   Building on our previous research on 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 have just re-launched our websites alcoholoireland.ie and drinkhelp.ie 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 vested economic interests which will seek to oppose attempts at introducing minimum pricing in Ireland. The same interests have been doing all in their power to ensure minimum pricing is not introduced in Scotland, England and Wales despite evidence that tackling pricing will reduce harm and save lives.

The challenge posed to achieving necessary change should not be underestimated. Alcohol Action Ireland will be engaging with these challenges – and 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 , we were asked on numerous occasions 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. Alcohol Action Ireland owes a debt to outgoing policy officer and former social worker, Cliona Murphy, who worked tirelessly to ensure these children – an estimated one in ten in Ireland impacted by parental alcohol problems – were not forgotten.

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.