TWO young people are now dead, in what is understood to be to some extent due to lethal games with alcohol over the past weekend. Two young lives have been needlessly wasted, their loved ones and companions deprived of their company forever. True, in each case it started out as a joke and, had it ended differently, it might have been classed as 'a piece of harmless fun'. But in the cold light of day we are left to contemplate the appalling reality of two young lives taken in their prime, and all that potential of youth squandered, leaving us only heartbreak and regret.
We, as a nation, need an overdue and comprehensive national conversation about our attitudes to alcohol. The unpalatable truth is that we not only tolerate rampant alcohol abuse, too often we actually encourage and celebrate it.
Early last week, we had the scenes outside a popular Dublin nightclub when a large crush of young people came perilously close to serious tragedy. The cause of this dangerous crowd scene was a cut-price alcohol promotion.
Seven people were injured, one person seriously, in the incident, which saw 1,500 young people descend on the nightclub to avail of drinks for as little as €3.50. Happily, this incident did not have more serious consequences and the nightclub involved has said it is stopping its cut-price drink promotion.
The two alcohol-related incidents, one in Dublin and the other in Carlow, did not end so luckily over the weekend. In each case, the young men who died were understood to be involved to some degree in drinking games, which are as old as alcohol itself, but with a new social media twist.
The so-called 'neknomination' involves young people swiftly downing quantities of strong drink and posting a video online. More usually, this stupid game involves people getting dangerously drunk and frequently being sick. But quaffing a large quantity of alcohol can prove a huge shock to the system and sometimes it can seriously injure and even kill.
These are dangerous and stupid games. Everybody, everywhere, must now know that. We must take special care to ensure that all our young people know it from this very moment onwards.
But we have to go further in approaching our urgent national conversation about attitudes to alcohol.
Alcohol abuse, at best, leaves misery and heartbreak in its wake. Alcohol abuse destroys. Alcohol abuse kills.
As a nation, we have an obligation to those two young people who needlessly died this past weekend. We need to take a long, hard look at ourselves and our attitudes to alcohol.