Press Release

Minister Wallace promises to give priority to tacking our alcohol culture

Ms Mary Wallace T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children with special responsibility for Health Promotion and Food Safety, today (15 May 2008) promised to give particular priority in her new role to tackling our alcohol culture.

Two recent reports from the Health Research Board and the Health Service Executive have clearly shown the negative impact of alcohol misuse in Irish society.

•Alcohol consumption per capita in the Irish population increased by 17% over the past 11 years with average consumption of pure alcohol per person in Ireland close to 13.4 litres which is well above the EU average.

•Alcohol related hospital admissions increased by 88% between 1995 and 2004.

•Death from alcohol-related diseases has nearly doubled from 3.8 per 100,000 adult population in 1995 to 7.1 in 2004.

Speaking at a conference organised by Alcohol Action Ireland, Minister Wallace said“Alcohol-related harm is visible throughout Ireland; on the streets, in the courts, hospitals, workplaces, schools and homes. In order to tackle the problems associated with alcohol misuse we need to take responsibility both collectively and individually. A change in our attitudes towards alcohol can only occur when we stop excusing excesses of consumption and drunken behaviour. This change must, I believe, be embraced by all sectors of civil society, while, at the same time, recognising that Government actions alone will not be sufficient.”

The Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children (HBSC) Study 2006 found that one third of Irish 15-17 year olds reported having been drunk in the previous 30 days. The Minister is extremely concerned at these findings in the light of UK research published in 2007 which showed that adolescent binge drinking is a risk behaviour associated with significant later adversity and social exclusion. The UK study found that adolescent binge drinking predicted an increased risk of adult alcohol dependence, illicit drug use, criminal convictions, school exclusion and accidents.

“There is a social acceptance of alcohol in our society and we need to question the signal that this is sending, particularly to our young people. Parents need to be more aware of the tendency to “normalise” alcohol consumption given the potential that alcohol has to cause problems. Children, who are our most valuable and precious resource, need to be protected from the potential harms of alcohol misuse and I intend to continue to seek implementation of the necessary policy and legislative measures required to ensure that protection. ” the Minister added.