USI pulls out of – MEAS responds

MEAS Chief Executive Fionnuala Sheehan – “ is perceived as the leading organisation promoting ‘drinking in moderation’ and is significantly ahead of, for example, the HSE and its sponsored websites”.
MEAS Chief Executive Fionnuala Sheehan – “ is perceived as the leading organisation promoting ‘drinking in moderation’ and is significantly ahead of, for example, the HSE and its sponsored websites”.

The Union of Students in Ireland has officially ended any future partnership with following a motion passed without objection at a USI National Council meeting held in the Dublin Institute of Technology recently.



26 November 2013

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In a letter to MEAS Chief Executive Fionnuala Sheehan just over a week later, USI President Joe O’Connor emphasised, “It may be important to note for your own internal purposes that the continued promotion of the ‘Arthur’s Day’ festival by Diageo further deepened our concerns regarding the credibility of your alcohol awareness campaign”.

“Encouraging students to drink responsibly is still an encouragement for students to drink – regardless of how it’s qualified,” he continued, “While that may serve your purposes best, we have decided that it no longer serves ours.”

The decision to end the relationship with was taken after having been discussed among Students’ Union officials nationwide for quite some time, according to the USI and so it was agreed that USI will no longer work with drinkaware on any alcohol awareness campaigns.


USI Deputy President and Vice President for Welfare Denise McCarthy, added, “USI want to ensure that students’ health is at the forefront of any campaigns we run/support in the future. Accordingly, It has been determined we are not best served doing that in partnership with drinkaware”.

  Following on from this decision the USI will develop its own student alcohol awareness campaign independently through working with other bodies that are not funded by “a self-regulating industry”.

However in response to the USI decision Fionnuala Sheehan pointed out, “MEAS/ is an alcohol social responsibility organisation, not an alcohol prohibition body, established to tackle problems arising from the abuse/misuse of alcohol.

“MEAS/ does not encourage anyone to drink (indeed it advises there are circumstances where people should not drink alcohol) but we seek to address the realities of alcohol in Irish society as they have developed over time.
“MEAS/ has a target audience of 18-24 year olds and the reality is that 87% of this age cohort does drink alcohol whether various parties like this or not. From extensive research we’ve conducted we know that adopting a ‘do not drink’ approach to this age group is actually a turn-off and is regarded as a nanny-state approach.”
The very difficult task which MEAS/ undertakes is to challenge and change some of the harmful cultural ways in which Irish people have, for generations, used alcohol, she continued, “Hence, the messaging surrounding our current communications campaign called ‘Pacing’ is that this age cohort should not be pressured into drinking more, or fast, or indulge in our so-called ‘rounds’ system. The strapline to the advert is designed to empower young people to take control of their drinking: it states ‘the best pace to drink at is your own’. We also emphasise in our communications the importance of respecting decisions not to drink.
“Other campaigns we have run on a host of advertising platforms (TV, radio, cinema, outdoor, etc) prior to Pacing, called  ‘Had Enough’ and ‘Rethinking our Drinking’ depicted a series of situations where persons who are drunk interfere with and abuse innocent third parties including those working in or attending A&E Departments. And our award-winning ‘Reclaim Your Weekend’ programme and dedicated website seek to alert the 18-24 age cohort to the benefits of avoiding excessive weekend alcohol consumption so that they can participate in activities and events around the country.
“We constantly review and research the effectiveness of our communications strategy,” she continued, “For example, independent nationwide research conducted  by Millward Brown for us in January 2013 found that is perceived as the leading organisation promoting ‘drinking in moderation’ and is significantly ahead of,  for example,  the HSE and its sponsored websites.  In addition 85% of over-18s are aware of Most importantly, there’s very strong public permission for to do what it is doing and to do more; over 90% of those aware of said this brand should be used more widely while 81% said ‘it is effective without pointing the finger’.
“This would seem to suggest that separate from any opinion that some USI officers may currently hold, very many individual students see the value of the work being undertaken by MEAS/ and we are hopeful they’ll continue to do so.
“In the case of our competition which we’ve run annually since 2007, it’s important to note that MEAS/ is the facilitator only – for campaigns to be developed by students for students. The competition is pitched to all third level institutions across the country – including some very large colleges who are not members of USI.”
Separately, the Responsible Serving of Alcohol training programme – developed in partnership with the Department of Health and the hospitality industry and promoted and supported by MEAS and Failte Ireland –  has been undertaken by staff serving in college bars. A total of some 14,000 servers have taken this programme in the last decade, while in excess of 1,200 of servers at events over the Summer 2013 have taken the free online briefing tool (ServeAware) developed and promoted by MEAS. This is available to servers taken on at relevant events on college campuses, she concluded.  



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