Children 'sacrificed on altar of our nation's drunkenness'

 

Sir, – Media coverage of the report by the Independent Child Death Review Group (ICDRG) has focused on the many failings of the services and professionals involved in the care of children.

However, the report also highlights a challenge for society as one of the four key emerging issues within it. The authors state, “It is wholly unrealistic to assume that the social work profession or any other . . . can remedy the damage for younger family members of serious alcohol misuse other than in a very limited and partial way. Failure on the part of society to comprehensively address the alcohol problem . . . is to leave child protection systems to deal with insurmountable consequences.”

While politicians are queuing up to engage in public breast- beating over this report, they have been unwilling to put in place any policies that will address alcohol use by young and old, as recommended recently by the National Drug Strategy group.

Alcohol marketing has been demonstrated to increase youth drinking. Despite this, the Department of Health & Children supports a guideline which allows drinks companies advertise during television programmes that are preferentially watched by children. Drinks manufacturers sponsor all of the sports with the highest youth participation in Ireland. While a ban has been proposed, Ministers Varadkar and Coveney have been quick to say it won’t happen during this Government. They are prioritising the financial wellbeing of drinks companies and professional sporting bodies over the health and well being of Irish children. By permitting our children to be bombarded with messages linking alcohol with fun, success and athleticism, we cannot expect a societal shift in our relationship with alcohol.

While the ICDRG report highlights one group of children who have been sacrificed on the altar of our nation’s drunkenness, the bodies are still piling high with four alcohol-related deaths each day.

What will it take for our politicians to find the bravery to finally tackle this problem as this report implores them to do? – Yours, etc,

Dr BOBBY SMYTH MRCPsych,

Senior Clinical Lecturer,

Department of Public Health

Primary Care,

Trinity College Dublin,

Dublin 2.