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Parents must set better example with drinking

Should we be shocked that 28 per cent of school-going children aged between 10 and 17 have told a survey on children's health that they have been drunk? The finding, which is contained in the Heath Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) Ireland Trends Report 1998-2010, comes at a time of growing controversy over the annual Arthur's Day celebration, which takes place on Thursday.

Of course Guinness, which promotes Arthur's Day, is in the drinks business.

It's what it does and does very well, so it should not come as a surprise to anyone that it will try and find additional ways of promoting and selling its products.

The fact is that most Irish social and sporting occasions are celebrated with alcohol.

Mostly, everyone has a good time, but there are always those who cannot enjoy themselves without causing inconvenience to others.

So it is all too easy to blame others for excessive drinking. which seems to be so commonplace throughout the country.

Maybe it would be more instructive for parents and others to examine how they are equipping young people to deal with alcohol.

Quite often children model themselves on the behaviour of parents, and if they have seen their parents drunk they are likely to follow suit.

So maybe it is time that parents themselves adopted a better attitude to alcohol where enjoyment rather than over-use of the substance would become the norm.

There is also the issue of 'cheap drink', which is now widely available in supermarkets, off-licences and convenience stores. While it is ironic that the public house is now being re-branded as a 'safe and responsible' venue for drinking, rather than the home, setting minimum prices for a unit of alcohol has proved a thorny issue for successive governments.

That said, it would be a pity if the Irish, as a race, were to lose the best aspects of our relationship with alcohol, such as a relaxed and informal atmosphere that is often to be found in pubs and gatherings and the spontaneity that comes along with it.

Of course, there are always those, whether they are 16 or 61, who cannot go out and enjoy an occasion such as Arthur's Day or St Patrick's Day. It says more about them than the drinks companies that there is a 30 per cent surge in A&E visits on such occasions.

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