MEAS/drinkware.ie Chief condemns exclusion of key stakeholders from alcohol abuse campaign
Fionnuala Sheehan, the Chief Executive of MEAS/drinkaware.ie, has criticised the organisers of this week’s Alcohol Awareness Week for their attempts to exclude some key stakeholders from the task of combatting this country’s misuse of alcohol.
2 April 2014
“The organisers of this event, the Alcohol Forum and its supporting organisations, the HSE, Drugs.ie, Alcohol Action Ireland and the Royal College of Physicians, have declared that participants in Alcohol Awareness Week ‘should have no connection with or receive funding/support in any form from the drinks industry’.
“I believe this approach to be totally misguided, counter-productive and contradictory”, she stated, likening it to the ‘no Irish, no blacks need apply’ message of another era.
No organisation had done more over the past decade to tackle the problem than MEAS/drinkaware.ie, she claimed.
“We’ve done more than any alcohol forum to raise awareness about the need for responsibility when drinking; challenged Irish society to say they have ‘Had Enough’ of the problems associated with excessive drinking and delivered initiatives for Irish society to achieve a more mature and safe relationship with alcohol.”
She added that while the stance of the organisers also reflects the policy of the Department of Health, this differs markedly from the approach of the administrations in both Britain and Northern Ireland and also that of the European Commission.
“In Northern Ireland and in Britain the Alcohol Responsibility Deal welcomes initiatives by a range of bodies, including drinks industry bodies, designed to reduce alcohol-related harm and the European Commission’s Alcohol and Health Forum includes drinks industry companies and initiatives by bodies receiving industry funding,” she pointed out, “The drinkaware.ie initiative was recently awarded the impressive score of 88% by the Forum’s independent evaluators.”
Over €25 million (in cash and in kind) has been invested in the overall drinkaware.ie programme over the last seven years, she pointed out, continuing, “And the good news is that positive change is underway: for example public order offences decreased by 36% between 2008 and 2012; and research undertaken by Millward Browne in January 2014 found that seven in 10 consumers “think about the pace of their drinking more often now”, eight in 10 people feel there is a growing awareness of the effects of excessive drinking, while nine in 10 agree that “being drunk is unattractive to the opposite sex.
“With the latest CSO and Revenue data showing that average per adult alcohol consumption in Ireland declined by 25.7% since 2001, with a 7.6% decline recorded in 2013 versus 2012, our focus, via our current Pacing campaign, is on the harmful aspects of our Irish drinking pattern and style which involves drinking less often than our European counterparts but with a tendency to drink too much and too fast on a drinking occasion.”