Rare to see a minister get a good reception on TV but that is exactly what happened last Monday night on RTE’s “Frontline” Roisin Shortall was setting out her views on how to tackle binge drinking. Roisin is the minister responsible for the drugs strategy and she is seeking to reduce our addiction to alcohol consumption. She has a hard job however she set out in a positive way exactly the extent of the problem our society ignores. Absenteeism on Fridays or Mondays due to late night drinking is part of the €1.5B bill attributed to absenteeism in the workplace. It’s not too long ago since a local supermarket in Wexford gave a free case of beer when you bought one case.
Casual violence and vandalism adds to the damage. A few years ago a local garda told me that he was looking forward to his retirement as he’d spent enough Saturday nights in the company of enough of Wexford’s drunken youths to last him a lifetime. Alcohol contributes significantly to our levels of mental health. We’ve always tolerated the problem however it now seems that enough is enough and Rosin is looking at the volume of alcohol that is purchased here. Add to that the % alcohol content of alcopops and continental lagers, significantly stronger than the usual pint of plain. As a generation we’re storing up a problem of diabetes for the future. The health needs of the generation damaged by the over consumption of alcopos will have to be met somehow. Minister Shortall committed to ring fencing revenue raised for dealing with addiction. If a fraction of what she proposes comes through, it’ll be a good dasy work.
Lets deal with the potential downside. Cross border traffic for alcohol tends to be slightly older people who are not targeted by the alcopops manufacturers. There is little in the difference in price between many spirits here available on offer and the price across the border. Would you be bothered going to the north if the bargains aren’t there anymore? That’s not to say that some people will not go for variety and novelty. However the reality is that like the smoking ban which the north copied, any move that works on reducing alcohol consumption will in time make its way into law elsewhere. If a reduction of consumption in cheap youth orientated alcohols is Shorthall’s vision then I hope she succeeds and she deserves the support of all.