November 7, 2011
THE WIDE availability of “dirt cheap” alcohol has been linked to the number of suicides among young people in the Republic by Minister of State for Primary Care Róisín Shortall.
Ms Shortall – who is also responsible for drugs strategy – said the Coalition planned to examine the possibility of introducing minimum alcohol pricing in order to tackle the problem. “Our target has to be to reduce overall consumption levels, but clearly there are particular groups at risk when it comes to a lax attitude to alcohol. And young people are a case in point,” she said.
Referring to the case of David Higgins (19), from Ballina, Co Mayo, who took his life in March after a house party by jumping into the river Moy, she said: “We have a serious problem with suicide in this country. It is probably the biggest problem facing our young people.
“In over half the cases of suicide, alcohol is a key factor. That unfortunate young man who died in awful circumstances in Ballina brings it home to everybody.”
Mr Higgins’s father John told the inquest into his son’s death this week that the “combination of cheap alcohol and all-night house parties” presented a danger for young people who consumed “abnormally high levels” of drink.
Ms Shortall said that, in many cases, young people were not able to handle the amount of drink they could now afford and that there was “an onus” on the Government to address the problem.
Speaking following an address to the National Drugs Conference of Ireland, Ms Shortall said a steering group examining the issue of alcohol misuse would report to her in the coming weeks.
She expected the group to make recommendations on pricing and availability which would then be examined by the Government. “We’re looking at the question of minimum pricing to remove that dirt cheap element from the market,” she said.
Kathryn D’Arcy, director of the Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland, said alcohol consumption was on the decline in the State over the last decade but that it would support all evidence-based proposals to address misuse.