Sunday 19 May 2019

Sinead Ryan: 'Give sporting chance for our youth to say no'

Notebook

'I'm not sure where I stand on moving the legal age from 18 to 20' Stock picture
'I'm not sure where I stand on moving the legal age from 18 to 20' Stock picture
Sinead Ryan

Sinead Ryan

Calls have been made to raise the drinking age to 20 in Ireland.

It comes on foot of (yet another) report showing that we Irish are outstanding in our field (usually under a tree with a bag of cans) when it comes to alcohol consumption.

There have been attempts over the years to curtail it and it's not good enough to say it's simply our 'culture' and we ought to be collectively flummoxed by our retrograde steps.

I'm not sure where I stand on moving the legal age from 18 to 20. For a start, it puts the onus on off-licences and pubs rather than addressing personal responsibility.

I can't tell you when my own kids started to drink (they're both sensible adults now and it's none of my business), but I imagine if it was 15 or 18 it was irrespective of what any law said. My own early drinking career was efficiently curtailed by the (lack of) money in my pocket. It was simply unaffordable, and I remember sharing a bottle of Ritz with friends in nightclubs because that's all we could get.

These days, drink is far cheaper, relatively speaking, and when you can buy a slab of beer or naggin of vodka for pocket money it's being enabled. And that's with the highest tax in the EU.

So what do you do? Double the price? Triple it?

The Icelandics treat alcohol as we do cigarettes, hidden with no advertising, so you have to ask for it by brand. Alcohol cannot be sold in supermarkets in Sweden; you have to go to a dismal state-run shop, the Systembolaget, where it is sold without discounts or advertising, and at room temperature in as unattractive a way as possible.

This has worked in both countries and the shops are only open for a few hours each day, not at all at night. Of course you can buy drink in a pub, but the prices are eye-watering, and would put anyone without an independent income right off.

Would there be a backlash if we tried it? Undoubtedly. And where would it come from? Apart from the drinks industry, it would be sporting bodies.

And maybe this is our problem. As long as the IRFU, GAA and the FAI, who have kids at their core, believe it's OK to have a drinks sponsor, then to the kids it's OK too.

It's 'twinkle, twinkle, many stars' as sky parks shine

A few years ago we went on holiday to rural west of Ireland and, coming home from a night out, marvelled at the millions of stars in the clear sky. We even stopped the car to get out, astonished at the sparkling blanket twinkling above us.

Of course they're there all the time, but light pollution across most of the country makes them vanish to our eyes. Then I learned there were official dark-sky sites - like heritage centres or protected lands. What a super idea!

The latest, Cape Clear, has just been granted a Dark Sky bid (it's an international recognition). I hope it's successful. It's holding an event from May 24-26 during the passing of the ISS overhead. It was inspired by a local teacher, Shane O'Neill, who saw the potential of other sky parks in Mayo and Kerry. Now there's something kids can get excited about - and the only 'black stuff' on offer is surrounding the stars.

Taking responsibility easier than spelling it

It comes under the heading of 'You only had one job' but I do feel for the bank note designer of Australia's new $50 note on which a typo has been discovered … after 46 million were printed.

In quoting a line from Oz's first female MP, it misspelled the word 'responsibility'.

Now, whose responsibility was that?

Irish Independent

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