Taoiseach vows to tackle availability of cheap alcohol


GOVERNMENT MOVES to address the problems caused by the availability of cheap alcohol, and particularly the impact on young people, were promised yesterday by Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

Speaking in Castlebar at the launch of the first Mayo Drugs and Alcohol Awareness Week, Mr Kenny said everywhere he went in Ireland he was being made aware by parents of the damage being caused by “exceptionally cheap” alcohol.

He told reporters the issue was being examined by the Minister of State with responsibility for drugs strategy, Róisín Shortall.

“I have reports from hospitals of people being pumped out. Huge quantities of cheap alcohol are being consumed. It is an issue that is being brought directly to my attention,” he said.

“Nobody wants to take away the right of people to enjoy themselves but there has to be an understanding that excess does serious damage and the long-term impact and consequences of excess alcohol and use of drugs lead to enormous health challenges. The impact of very cheap alcohol is a factor in this area.”

The awareness week in Co Mayo, launched at Breaffy House Hotel in Castlebar, runs until Friday next.

The project is an initiative of the Western Region Drugs Task Force, in partnership with South West Mayo Development Company and Mayo North East Leader Partnership.

A recent report by the Health Research Board painted a worrying picture regarding alcohol consumption in the Mayo region. The county emerged worst in Ireland for alcohol-related deaths and deaths among people who were alcohol dependent.

There were 1.1 deaths per 100,000 of the population in Mayo, which was almost three times the rate in neighbouring Galway and Roscommon.

In his address yesterday, Mr Kenny said teenagers and young adults in Ireland drank more in total and more per occasion than young people in any other country in Europe.

“The statistics are stark,” he said. “For example, alcohol is responsible for about 100 deaths every month. It is also responsible for 2,000 beds being occupied every night in hospitals around the country. It accounts for three out of every 10 emergency department attendances and 7 per cent of GP consultations.

“Furthermore, one in four deaths in young men is due to alcohol, compared with one in 12 due to cancers and one in 25 due to circulatory disease. We no longer accept that people have to die from cancer and heart disease. Likewise we can’t ignore the fact that so many more of our young people are dying from alcohol than anything else,” he added.

The Mayo Drugs and Alcohol Awareness Week was officially opened by Castlebar mayor Eugene McCormack, who said overindulgence in alcohol was the biggest social problem facing Ireland today.