Speech by Minister Martin at the launch of the No Name Club’s project at the City Hall in Cork on 16th September 2002

I am delighted to be here today to launch this project. As many of you are aware, the issue of the misuse of alcohol is one which is of particular concern to me. You will all be aware also that the problem of alcohol misuse is a growing one.

Recent national research commissioned by the Health Promotion Unit of my Department, and also research on an international and European level in which the Unit has been involved has proved this to be the case. And if we didn´t have the research, we need only walk on the main streets of any town on a busy night, to witness the extent and reality of the problem.

Much of the problems of under-age, and indeed adult drinking, stem from, as I have stated before, the cultural acceptance of alcohol misuse as a social norm. Young people absorb and accept the behaviour of older people around them. That not only includes the behaviour of adults in the immediate vicinity, but also behaviours portrayed on radio, television, magazines etc. Drink driving has gradually become more socially unacceptable than it would have been ten or twenty years ago. The same approach is required with alcohol misuse. It must become socially unacceptable to drink oneself into oblivion, or to be rude or abusive because of excess alcohol consumption.

However, this necessary socio-cultural change will be a slow, gradual one and may take several generations to achieve. It is a change which also involves individual responsibility, because by being careless or blasé about alcohol misuse, we as individuals contribute to the perpetuation of this counter-productive, indeed destructive social norm.

The No-Name Club is an organisation which contributes to this goal of social change. The central aim of the organisation is to provide young people with an alternative to the pub and to foster personal growth and development. We all know that increased confidence and self-assurance make young people less susceptible to peer pressure and the lack of these characteristics are often instrumental in young people getting involved in binge drinking and other types of problematic and destructive behaviours.

That is why the Health Promotion Unit of my Department is providing funding for this project. Projects such as this help to make a difference and complement the ongoing work which the Unit is involved in.

Education and knowledge equals empowerment. The settings approach, as outlined by the Health Promotion Strategy, means combining healthy policies in a healthy environment with complementary education programmes and approaches.

The settings identified in the Health Promotion strategy are schools and colleges, the community, the workplace, the health services and the youth sector. This project effectively embraces two of these settings, the youth sector and the community.

The development of the national curriculum in health education (Social, Personal and Health Education), the promotion of school policies on alcohol and drugs, the greater involvement of parents and communities under the health promoting schools concept ensures a comprehensive and effective long term approach in education.

You may be aware that the Health Promotion Unit is currently running an alcohol awareness campaign entitled Less is More – It´s Your Choice.

Many of us enjoy a drink. Alcohol is used on many social occasions, to enjoy with a meal or to relax with friends. But when alcohol is consumed in inappropriate settings or circumstances or where individuals drink too much or become intoxicated, the risk of harm increases. The aim of the campaign is to promote the essence of the “Less is More” slogan – if you drink less or moderately, your positive experiences will be increased and enhanced. More fun, more health, more alive and lively, physically, psychologically and emotionally.

The first year of the campaign specifically targeted underage drinkers. It is a three-year campaign which is expanding to include other high risk groups.

Phase two of the campaign targeted those who buy/supply/sell alcohol to under-age drinkers. It consisted of radio advertisements and posters which were displayed in pubs, off-licenses and retail outlets where alcohol is sold. The emphasis was that everyone should play their part by not making alcohol accessible to young people.

Another initiative involved the printing of sensible drinking advice on airline ticket wallets, which were circulated by the Health Promotion Unit to holidaymakers via travel agents. These coincided with the summer holiday season and exam results and reinforced the message of having a great time, without being too out of it to really “experience” the moment.

The Responsible Serving of Alcohol (RSA) programme is another training initiative, which is developed specifically for those who work in the bar trade and hospitality sector. The aim of this is to limit harm in the drinking environment by not serving to intoxicated customers, encouraging the use of age cards as standard practice and promoting alternative strategies to reduce drink driving.

A Strategic Task Force on Alcohol, which I established this year, was given a remit to provide advice to Government and public bodies on measures to prevent and reduce alcohol harm.

The Interim Report of the Task Force was published in May of this year and provides a series of recommendations aimed at tackling alcohol related problems. I will be taking these recommendations to Government later this year for their endorsement.

These are just a few of the initiatives which are ongoing in my Department. While I am aware that individual initiatives may appear to make little difference, it is the cumulative effect of different people doing different things and different initiatives which ultimately leads to change. We know that the task of reducing alcohol consumption and changing social acceptance of excessive alcohol consumption and drunkenness is a difficult one. We know that it is easy to blame someone or something else. We know all the problems and difficulties but it is very necessary for us as individuals to begin somewhere and build on that beginning.

That beginning has been made at a national level and I am pleased to see contributions to the process in the form of this project. I congratulate and commend all involved and wish you every success with the project and indeed with the overall No Name organisation.