THE Government is preparing to tackle the crisis arising from the widespread availability of cheap alcohol.
The move follows harrowing evidence of the numbers of drunken youngsters requiring emergency treatment in hospitals across the country, while in at least one recent, tragic case a father insisted that part of the reason for his son's death was the fact that alcohol could be bought so cheaply.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has admitted that he personally received reports from hospitals of young people having to have their stomachs pumped after huge quantities of cheap alcohol were consumed.
"It's an issue that has been brought to my attention here," he said.
Mr Kenny was speaking in Castlebar at the launch of the first Alcohol and Drugs Awareness Week in Co Mayo.
He said that he had come across the problem of cheap alcohol and young people ending up in serious trouble in every part of the country.
"I think it's an area that the minister has got to consider, because I have so many reports from people all over the country of the extent and the scale of the purchase of very cheap alcohol and we have reports from hospitals in so many cases of unfortunate consequences," Mr Kenny said.
He confirmed that the report of the National Substance Misuse Strategy Steering Group was almost complete and the Minister for Health would shortly receive its proposals. The Steering Group was established in 2009 to develop policy in relation to the supply, pricing, availability and marketing of alcohol.
Mr Kenny pointed out that the Irish are the third highest consumers of alcohol in the world and that we drink more per occasion than any country in Europe. Alcohol is responsible for about 100 deaths every month and for 2,000 beds being occupied every night in hospitals. It also accounts for three out of every 10 emergency department attendances.
"Furthermore, one in four deaths in young men (15-34) is due to alcohol, compared with 1 in 12 due to cancers and one in 25 due to circulatory disease," Mr Kenny said.