Politics and the alcohol Bill

 

Sir, – Over 10 years ago, the alcohol industry lobbied strongly against mandatory alcohol testing for drivers that would save lives. Eventually, after several years of delay, legislation was passed, enacted and implemented. Our road deaths halved, and lives have been saved every year since. Lives were needlessly lost because of the delay.

We now have the very same tactics being employed by the same alcohol industry to delay or destroy the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill.

An unnamed Fine Gael politician is quoted as being lectured to by doctors at a meeting (“Government defers Bill to curb alcohol abuse until after Christmas due to FG divisions”, November 23rd). Not so. What doctors and many other are doing is trying to get this new legislation on to the statute books as quickly as possible to save more lives and reduce the negative health and social impacts of alcohol.

There are about five million people in this jurisdiction. Many effective measures can only be brought in by the 218 people privileged to be members of the Oireachtas.

I hope members of Oireachtas Éireann will pass this important and much-needed legislation as soon as possible, for our sakes and that of future generations. – Yours, etc,

JOE BARRY,

Professor of Population

Health Medicine,

Trinity College Dublin,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – In my long career as a general nurse, addiction counsellor and psychotherapist, I have witnessed the full range of alcohol’s physical, mental and social harms. As a nurse in emergency departments, I treated those with injuries and accidents due to alcohol, many of which resulted in long-term disability and death.

As an addiction counsellor, I witness how our society’s tolerance for years of heavy drinking means that children and families are trapped in stigma and hopelessness, often with the extra heavy burdens suffered by disadvantaged communities, such as financial deprivation and unemployment.

I never cease to be moved by the levels of emotional distress, loss, worry and shame suffered by spouses and children with an alcohol-dependent partner or parent. As a psychotherapist, I see many of these same children presenting as adults with the long-term traumatic injuries of having grown up in such environments and who are now struggling to survive as parents of children in their own right. And so the cycle continues.

All through my career, I have been conscious of the power of the alcohol industry in denying this reality through its ceaseless lobbying, clever messaging and marketing, while its profits soar, and as no-one calls it to task for its flagrant glamorisation of alcohol and its efforts to place it within every facet of Irish life, and as it echoes the same anodyne phrase about enjoying alcohol “responsibly” with every advertisement. What about the responsibility of the Government?

This is indeed a cycle that could be broken, but it requires the commitment and willingness of our Taoiseach and politicians committed to implementing measures that will eventually have an impact on changing what is for many people a type of permanent enslavement.

Some drinks industry executives quote a drop in alcohol addiction treatment figures, but if they enquired further they would discover that there have been major cuts to alcohol treatment services for years, coupled with the fact that only 10 per cent of those with alcohol dependence receive treatment.

Let us ensure that the damage alcohol causes to Irish citizens finally becomes our priority, and let TDs enact the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill in full. – Yours, etc,

MARION RACKARD,

Naas, Co Kildare.