Saturday 16 December 2017

Ban cheap booze, says grieving dad

Alcohol 'played role in suicide' after party

Anne and John Higgins with a photo of their son David
Anne and John Higgins with a photo of their son David

Edel O'Connell and Anton McNulty

A HEARTBROKEN father whose son died by suicide after a drink-fuelled night out has called for a ban on the below-cost selling of alcohol.

David Higgins (21), of Shanahee Heights, Ballina, Co Mayo, drowned in the early hours of March 13 after leaving a house party. He was last seen walking along the Lower Bridge in Ballina at approximately 6.30am.

His body was discovered 14 days later after an extensive search of the River Moy.

Earlier, a close friend accidentally slipped and fell into the river while searching for David's body and also drowned.

On the night of his son's death, John Higgins phoned David at 3am to see where he was and discovered he was on his way to a house party.

When David did not return, his mother Anne phoned him again at 5am and spoke to him, but when the couple tried phoning him again an hour later David was too upset to talk.

The worried parents began a frantic search for their son while phoning him on his mobile.

"David answered but did not speak -- then Anne let out a scream. David had left the phone down by the bridge, and while Anne was on the phone she heard somebody in the background shout, 'He is in the river'," said Mr Higgins.

The River Moy was at high tide on the night of David's death and the current was running fast -- despite two passing gardai noticing somebody in the river, they could not reach him.

A major search of the river was conducted, involving the Garda Water Unit, the Coast Guard, the Irish Navy, fisherermen and scores of local volunteers.

Four days after David went missing, a double tragedy befell the family when Mr Higgins's lifelong friend, Tommy Helly, tragically drowned while searching the river bank.

"Tommy was an amazing friend and he thought the world of David," Mr Higgins told the Irish Independent.

David's body was eventually found in four metres of water on March 27, by the Garda Water Unit.

Speaking to the Irish Independent just days after an inquest into David's death returned a verdict of death by suicide and named alcohol as a contributory factor, Mr Higgins said something should be done to curb the drinking habits of young people.


He is calling for tighter regulation in relation to the cost of alcohol in supermarkets and off-licences.

He said alcohol had become so cheap it could be purchased with pocket money, and encouraged house parties, which had become a "plague on Irish society".

"The combination of cheap alcohol and all-night house parties presents a danger for young people. At least in a pub, there is a barman who can tell you if you have had too much, but there is no duty of care at a house party," he said.

He said the inquest into his son's death did not provide him with any clarity as to what had occurred prior to David's death.

"Without a doubt, if David had come home that night after the pub he would be alive now."

Irish Independent

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