Eamon Keane: Kids drowning in booze ... as we talk about Good Friday

Frances Fitzgerald has appointed a judge as an independent watchdog for the issuing and wiping of penalty points

Eamon Keane

One day and they’re all upset.

The Leinster rugby team will be playing in the European Champions Cup in Dublin on Easter weekend and publicans want to be allowed open for customers on Good Friday.

Minister Frances Fitzgerald has been petitioned to end the 80-year-old ban.

In the same week, our Government took a cowardly and damaging decision for our youth. It lost its bottle and gave in to the drinks industry in relation to sports sponsorship. Yet there’s barely been a whimper about that.

I don’t care if the pubs open or people drink at home on Good Friday. Instead, let’s focus on the other 360-odd days of the year that we drink.

Alcohol-related health issues, crime and absenteeism gives us an estimated €3.7bn hangover every year – that’s a €3,318-a-year tab for each taxpayer.

According to the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tony Holohan, a 30pc reduction in alcohol-related harm would result in a €1bn saving to the Exchequer.

If we reduced alcohol-related harm by 30pc, we would save 30 lives per month and 600 overnight hospital admissions per day.

Think about that the next time you hear about a trolley crisis in hospital emergency departments.

Yet we’re arguing over drinking on Good Friday?

Some 3-5pc of people worldwide are alcohol dependent. In Ireland the figure is 10pc.

For every one of those people, a whole host of other people are also affected – the children who live with alcoholic parents, women who are assaulted by drunken men and so on.

Then our Government bottles it on sports sponsorship. Professor Joe Barry of Trinity College said the coalition had “caved in to big multi-nationals” and was putting their interests “above that of the public health of young people”.

Fergus McCabe of Citywide Drugs Campaign, who is is also chairman of Belvedere Football Club, said it was an “absolutely disgraceful decision”.

Why do drinks companies sponsor sports events if they have no impact on young people watching them?

The goal is to get our youth drinking early, loyal to the brand and supply them for life.

Professor Frank Murray of Beaumont Hospital has referenced research involving 38,000 young people which found that advertising increased the likelihood that adolescents would start to use alcohol.

Now consider that 40pc of young male suicides involve alcohol.

Consider that liver cirrhosis has doubled in the last twenty years. Consider that young women present at emergency departments having been beaten and assaulted by young men high on alcohol and drugs.

Remember too that sports were alive and thriving before we ever had an organised drinking lobby. Think of the Special Olympics – which has harnessed huge community support.

Sponsors came on board with that and advertised products that didn’t have the side effects that alcohol have.

So don’t tell me we can’t do without drinks sponsorship.

We’re in national denial about how the abuse of alcohol is killing people’s dreams, hopes and health. Despite all the rhetoric about caring for our youth, the Government’s decision betrays that hope.

Now we are debating about pubs opening Good Friday – while we ignore the savage effects of the rest of the year’s drinking.