News Ian O'Doherty

Thursday 2 October 2014

Ian O'Doherty: That’s just what we need – alcoholic tweens

Published 08/01/2014 | 11:18

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Teen drinking (Image posed) Photo: Thinkstock

So class, can anyone tell me what exactly it is we do in this most tedious of months?

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That's right — we navel-gaze, we make lofty and utterly unrealistic declarations about all the healthy changes that we're going to make to our lifestyle and, being Irish, we obsess about the amount we drank.

It's the time of the year when everyone wants to renounce their previously debauched ways and adopt a new, straight-edge approach to life.

But two rather damning indicators of our national drinking habits have emerged over the last few days and they are a perfect fit for this health-conscious, hyperbolic time of the year.

The first came with the news that the Wesley disco in Donnybrook has introduced what has been described as a ‘drunk tank’ for its young patrons — seen as a sane and sensible idea in some quarters and a damning indictment of our attitude towards booze in others.

The other noteworthy news nugget came with the report that rather alarmingly claimed: “Children as young as 11 are being admitted to emergency departments after drinking themselves unconscious.” To which I'm sure we can all agree on one response — Yikes.

Has our drinking become so bad that now teenage discos need a drunk tank and our A+E departments are clogged with tweens who have passed out in a drunken stupor?

Interestingly, some parents have condemned the move |in Wesley, with one, who |had her son up in the so-called ‘wet room' calling it ‘horrible' and ‘disgusting'.

But short of breathalysing everyone who attends the popular venue, surely having a place for drunken kids to wait while their furious parents come and pick them up is better than allowing them to wander on their own down Morehampton Road?

After all, the understandable fury any parent feels when they have to pick their kid up from a booze tank is nothing compared to the dangers that a drunk and disorientated 15-year-old could face when wandering the streets on their own.

Then there are the stories of the 11-year-old children drinking themselves into oblivion. As it turns out, 100 minors have been treated in Irish hospitals in the last two years and five of them were under 12.

Obviously that is 100 too many. But when it comes to someone who should still be playing with the toys they got for Christmas ending up in hospital because they drank to a dangerous degree, common sense would indicate that these are likely to be kids who snuck into their parents' liquor cabinet. Kids who will hopefully have learned a valuable lesson in the importance of treating booze with respect — something many of their parents have failed to master.

Professor Alf Nicholson of Temple Street Hospital, which has treated 92 minors in the last two years, is reluctant to blame the parents and instead points the finger at: “The availability of cheap alcohol in garages and supermarkets... It's not difficult to get an older person to buy it for you.”

If we accept that there is a national problem with drink, and a cursory glance on any main street in Ireland at closing time would suggest we do, then surely the first thing we need to adopt is a culture of accountability, where the drinker is held responsible for their actions.

But even more importantly, if a parent isn't ultimately responsible for their children, then who is?

Because you can't blame the State for an 11-year-old getting pissed.

Forget about fox holes – what about the Áras?

Don’t ask me: Michael D is quiet on religion. Photo by Gareth Chaney

So, Michael D's people have said that it is ‘inappropriate' to ask El Presidente about his religious beliefs.

My initial response was to dismiss the whole thing as yet another example of Ireland becoming a vast, real-world Craggy Island.

But when you consider the ludicrous accusations that Obama was a secret Muslim (when there should have been far more concern about the Church he was openly attending) this obviously ain't just an Irish thing.

The man's beliefs are his own and, for the record, I happen to be an atheist myself.

And yet, and yet...

I can't help feeling the question is entirely relevant given the oath of Presidency starts |with the words: “In the presence of Almighty| God” and finishes with: “May God direct and sustain me”.

Interestingly, the Áras demanded to know if anyone was “questioning the sincerity of the President taking the oath”.

Well, either he believes in the God he swore an oath to, or he doesn't.

It wouldn’t take much to clarify the |situation.

No Matt, say it ain’t so

So, Matt Cooper, host of The Last Word, is off to North Korea with Dennis Rodman, much to the surprise of those of us who were watching Sky News yesterday.

I'm sure we all hope that life doesn't imitate art and Cooper finds himself in a similar plight to another high-profile media figure — one Avery Jessup from 30 Rock who found herself kidnapped in North Korea when she went there on assignment.

Yes, Anton Savage, I'm talking to you...

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