Wednesday 16 October 2019

Alarm as controversial DrinkAware campaign plans to target schools

The president of the USI, Laura Harmon
The president of the USI, Laura Harmon
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

ANTI-alcohol campaigners have voiced serious concerns about revelations that the controversial DrinkAware campaign is planning on targeting schools, with a programme aimed at children.

The campaign promoting the responsible use of alcohol - which is run by Meas, the Mature Enjoyment of Alcohol in Society charity and is funded by the drinks industry - is currently advertising for an Education Programme Manager.

They are planning to run a pilot programme amongst a small number of schools, the employment advertisement revealed. The role will focus on developing DrinkAware's education programme targeted at young people, parents and teachers.

Key to the role will be to "manage relationships with relevant stakeholders" including the Department of Education, teaching unions and parents' networks.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education and Skills last night said he was unaware of the plans and that he had no comment to make at this stage.

Senator Jillian Van Turnhout told the Irish Independent that she was "alarmed" at DrinkAware's plans, saying she considered it "abhorrent" that the drinks industry would consider that they had a role in providing materials related to alcohol for young people in schools.

"I'd be certain the Department of Education will have no hand, act or part in facilitating the drinks industry in having access to our children in whatever costume they choose to wear," she said.

She said that while the HSE provides materials relating to alcohol education in schools, there is "no need for the drinks industry to be involved in our children's lives".

However, Director of DrinkAware Niamh Gallagher said last night: "DrinkAware will under no circumstances be going into schools to teach children. The exploration is around whether there are ways the organisation can contribute to developing resources that could be of use to teachers and youth workers."

A 2009 National Youth Council of Ireland report, 'Get 'em young, Mapping Young People's Exposure to Alcohol Marketing in Ireland', found that "young people's exposure to alcohol marketing practices increases the likelihood that adolescents will start to drink and to drink more".

Trusted

A spokesperson for the Association of Secondary Teachers Ireland said many organisations seek to work with second-level schools, saying it was up to individual teachers and schools to "use their judgment" to choose which organisations they work with and to set guidelines and protocols for governing interaction between the school and particular organisations.

The Union of Students in Ireland cut ties with DrinkAware in November 2013.

The president of the USI, Laura Harmon, said she hoped the education sector would resist the moves, saying the alcohol industry "cannot be trusted with alcohol education, in the same way we wouldn't let the tobacco industry teach young people about smoking".

Irish Independent

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