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Anti-binge-drink group has credibility problems


Dr Ciara Kelly

Dr Ciara Kelly

Dr Ciara Kelly

The resignation of Dr Ciara Kelly from the board of the 'Stop Out-of-Control Drinking' campaign has once again focused attention on the thorny subject of the drinks industry funding what - in effect - is an anti-binge drinking campaign.

While Dr Kelly appears to have resigned for work-related reasons, the campaign, which is led by such high-profile figures as Fergus Finlay, the chief executive of the children's charity Barnardos, and Kieran Mulvey, of the Labour Relations Commission, has come in for sustained criticism from health groups, politicians and members of the youth movement.

While nobody doubts the bona fides of those behind this campaign, the fact that it is getting an estimated €1m in funding from the drinks giant Diageo (owners of various drinks brands, including Guinness) has led to a certain amount of confusion about where exactly it stands.

As its title suggests, this is not an anti-alcohol group, it is more concerned with ending what is undoubtedly a scourge - binge drinking.

Can a campaign largely sponsored by the drinks industry really challenge young people's perceptions about alcohol? Put another way, would people take seriously a campaign promoting vegetarianism sponsored by a meat company? Probably not.

However, proponents of the idea believe quite rightly that we in Ireland do have a problem with alcohol. The best way to tackle it is to try to get to young people before they emulate their parents' behaviour.

Many 'modern' parents allow their children to drink alcohol on special occasions in the belief that they will be educated to drink more responsibly. However, a Young Scientist survey found that this was not the case - and such children were four times more likely to over-indulge than those with stricter parents.

We have to recognise that for most young people the day of the Pioneer is over. But a serious question mark arises over how to tackle alcohol abuse and the harm it is doing, and while the proponents of this initiative are undoubtedly well-intentioned and sincere, the funding of their campaign will continue to raise questions as to its suitability.

Irish Independent