Mayor wants to test babies in poor areas for alcohol

Niall O’Connor

DUBLIN’S mayor wants children to be tested for their mum’s alcohol use during pregnancy.

The call by Lord Mayor Andrew Montague sparked anger among campaigners. In a suprise move, Mr Montague wants to screen children in disadavantaged areas for foetal alcohol syndrome.

The syndrome affects children whose mothers are exposed to an excessive amount of alcohol during pregnancy. Fianna Fail councillor Mary Fitzpatrick said the proposal was “discriminatory” as it is “judging women because of their background”.

“I am absolutely taken aback that the Lord Mayor could have such a prejudicial and discriminatory view,” she told the Herald.

“They cannot be judged because of their class or background. That would be a disgraceful approach,” she said.

The mayor wants the tests because medical evidence suggests that babies can be born with physical and mental defects if their mothers consume too much alcohol during the course of their pregnancy. Childrens Right's activist and Senator Jillian Van Turnhout today rejected the Lord Mayor's proposal out of hand. The former head of the Children’s Rights Alliance told the Herald there is “no evidence whatsoever to suggest that class has anything to do with this”.

“You cannot justify that view because alcoholism is a societal issue affecting women from all walks of life across the board. I would not subscribe to the Lord Mayor’s view whatsoever,” she added. However, Mr Montague’s focus on working class areas has sparked a furious reaction from city councillors.

Councillor Mannix Flynn described the proposal as “fascist” while another said it was a “slur on working class women”. The recommendation is contained in a draft paper on anti-social behaviour that Mr Montague himself has been driving since taking up office as city mayor. If the proposal was implemented, it could have mothers in some parts of Dublin see their children tested while children from so-called well-off areas avoid the screening process completely.


In the paper, seen by the Herald, Mr Montague recommends the “screening of children for Foetal Alcohol Syndrome for children in disadvantaged communities”. He adds: “Overexposure to alcohol and some other drugs is strongly associated with impulsivity and antisocial behaviour in later life.”

The inclusion of ‘disadvantaged’ women only is particular puzzling given the growing number of women from middle and upper-class backgrounds developing an over-reliance on alcohol. Phil Thompson, head of operations at Tiglin Rehabilitation Centre in Wicklow, told the Herald: “Alcohol Addiction is not something that is confined to a postcode or area whatsoever. We treat and welcome people from all walks of life.” The document – entitled the ‘Lord Mayor’s commission on anti-social behaviour’ – is signed by Mr Montague. It is clearly described as the ‘final draft’ and has been widely circulated.

When contacted by the Herald, Mr Montague said the document was a “draft” and he refused to comment on the claims.