Foyle MLA and Chairperson of the Assembly Health Committee, Maeve McLaughlin has commented on the ‘Drink Think’ survey which found that 68% of 12-17 year olds in Derry have tried alcohol.
The Sinn Fein MLA said that the harsh reality is that there is “nothing romantic” about our drinking culture and that it is in fact killing far too many.
Maeve McLaughlin said: “The problem of underage alcohol consumption is of course not confined to Derry. It affects communities across the island and further afield. I welcome and encourage the decision of the ‘Drink Think’ campaign to work with Parenting NI to further research parental influences on young peoples attitude to alcohol.
“As with everything in life, taken in moderation and at an age when the body is able to tolerate it alcohol consumption is quite acceptable. But unfortunately there are growing numbers of young people abusing alcohol at young ages when their body and mind are not equipped to deal with the far too often negative effects of alcohol.
“I believe that this widespread attraction to alcohol at a very early age is contributing to the growing incidence of alcoholism in people as young as their twenties. We must do all in our power to educate young people of the dangers of alcohol. Parents have a primary role to play in that education through discussion and example.
“Alcohol misuse is one of the biggest public health issues facing Ireland and its impact cannot be underestimated. Research shows that alcohol related illnesses cost the Northern economy over £900million per year with £250million of this being borne by the Health Service. Across Ireland every seven hours someone dies from alcohol related illness. Thirteen Hundred lives are claimed across Ireland every year as a direct result of alcohol consumption. And we must not forget the devastation and family break-downs that occur through domestic violence fuelled by alcohol.”
Concluding, the Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson said: “I cannot praise highly enough all of those voluntary groups, organisations and individuals involved in helping tackle the damage inflicted on individuals and their families through alcoholism and other addictions. They are the unsung heroes of our communities as they quietly go about their work of supporting the most vulnerable in our society.
“We owe them a deep debt of gratitude for their unconditional service to vulnerable people and their families. We must impress on our young people that our drinking culture is not romantic - it’s killing far too many of us. As a society we pay a high price for our relationship with alcohol, sometimes dubbed our ‘favourite drug’. Our young people must be educated to approach alcohol responsibly.”