Young 'drifting' into alcoholism, says Martin
'Celebrations without alcohol should be possible'
Too many young people are "still drifting into a culture of alcoholism" in Ireland due to the pervasive belief that "the only place you can celebrate is in the pub", the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin has warned.
Speaking as the Christmas celebrations got under way, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin told the Irish Independent it should be possible "to have celebrations which are not alcohol-driven".
But he acknowledged "it is a cultural problem".
"I think there is a growing awareness that we have an alcohol problem in Ireland.
"But if you say it too loudly you will be told you are a spoilsport," he stated.
Dr Martin said Health Minister Leo Varadkar was showing how serious the problem was in his proposals to introduce minimum alcohol pricing.
However, those plans underwent a setback yesterday when the European Court of Justice ruled that the Scottish government's plan for a minimum alcohol price would breach EU law if other tax options exist to discourage alcohol consumption.
The Archbishop also hit out at the role of money in alcohol sports advertising, saying he did not think it was an "appropriate model for young people".
"Obviously it brings in a lot of money and the makers of alcohol only do it if there is a lot of money in it," he commented.
At the opening of the Door of Mercy in the Pro Cathedral in Dublin recently, Archbishop Martin expressed the hope that during the Church's special Jubilee Year of Mercy, many would find encouragement from the figure of the Dubliner Matt Talbot, "who overcame addiction through encountering a merciful God".
He also appealed for prayers, "especially for our young people".
The Archbishop's appeal comes as the Rutland addiction rehabilitation centre in south Dublin said the number of young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 who underwent rehab for both alcohol and cocaine addiction has trebled over the past two years.
Separately, the Archbishop questioned whether the Government's proposed citizen's convention on abortion is a way of allowing somebody else to do politicians' work for them.
"I am not too sure what a citizen's convention is," he remarked.
He noted that parliaments in other countries "have been very reticent to come to grips with abortion" and that the courts had then stepped in.
"Is a citizen's convention a way of politicians - we elect them to do certain things - turning to the citizen's convention in order not to take their own responsibilities?" he asked.
Remarking that it was "interesting that on this particular occasion" Taoiseach Enda Kenny proposed to allow a free vote, he added that the whip system in Irish politics "is far too restrictive".
He recalled efforts by Margaret Thatcher on more than one occasion to reintroduce the death penalty in Britain, which polls indicated had popular support.
But politicians had voted down the proposal according to their consciences and with the aid of a less restrictive whip system. The Archbishop underlined that the Catholic Church would not change its position on abortion and gay marriage.
"That is still the Church's position. Not just in Ireland but around the world," he said.
Dr Martin will be leading the Christmas Eve vigil Mass at the Pro Cathedral tonight and the 11am Mass on Christmas Day.
Meanwhile, in his Christmas message, Bishop of Ossory Séamus Freeman said: "Sometimes it can be difficult to say the words 'Happy Christmas' knowing that it will not be a happy Christmas for so many - the sick, the unemployed, the bereaved, the troubled.
"But I can wish you all a blessed Christmas," he added.
"We must go out to the one who is suffering and be a real presence in that person's life. When we suffer with the one who is suffering, we become a missionary of mercy," he added.