Wednesday 21 February 2018

Our alcohol problem goes far deeper than sports sponsorship

Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

There was an interesting debate on Newstalk about the proposed ban on alcohol sponsorship for sports. Jonathan Healy had two people arguing the opposing sides: journalist Brian O'Connell, in favour of the ban, and TD Dessie Ellis, member of a parliamentary committee which says it would be detrimental to sport.

It was kind of funny actually: while O'Connell probably had the better arguments – and certainly was more articulate – I found myself siding with the other man. Maybe this makes me part of the problem, but your gut instinct says: a ban like this would make no difference, because the alcohol problem goes far deeper than whether a drinks company's name is attached to a competition.

There's also the giant elephant in the room (that's not the DTs, just a metaphor): why is the same ban not applied to arts events, festivals, gigs and so on? Not banging a drum of any sort for sport, but this is inconsistent and unfair by any reasonable standards.

Violent crime is another major issue in modern Ireland, and the story of Eugene Moloney makes for an awful reminder.

The former Irish Independent journalist was killed in a random attack by 21-year-old Gary Burch, who this week got a sentence of five-and-a-half years, two suspended. With 25pc off for good behaviour, it's expected he will be out within 22 months.

Does that seem too short to you? It seems too short to me, and to journalist Philip Nolan, a friend of Eugene. He told The Last Word (Today FM) that he was "shocked" at the sentence; it was "crazy, ridiculous" that this "little thug" would be out within two years.

Barrister and law lecturer Tom O'Malley was there to give balance and made his points eloquently. But while the mind may appreciate abstract contentions about criminal law, the gut instinct is again shouting a different story.

The gut wants justice, if not actual revenge. It wants the guilty punished for their crimes, not just rehabilitated. Most of all, it wants people to properly atone for their sins, which means genuine remorse, which means sitting in a room on your own for a long time, contemplating what you've done.

More jail-time for VAT fraud than killing a human being – there's something wrong somewhere.

Irish Independent

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