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See no evil, hear no evil when it comes to drink

WE are in the middle of Confirmation season. Houses all over the country are gearing up for their 12 year-old's big day by ... getting the drink in.

Soon it will be Communion, so let's stock up. Then there are the weddings, funerals and Christenings. Time to order in.

Just consider your absolute amazement if you turned up to one of these celebrations to find only a selection of fruit juices on offer? It'd be the talk of the town, and not in a good way.

Even going to collect your child from a neighbour's play date can often result in a, "Ah come in and I'll pour you a glass" catch-up.

A HSE report on the effects of alcohol on families was released this week. Some 28pc of people have been negatively affected by someone else's alcohol intake in terms of family problems, drink-driving, money issues and even assault.

For kids whose parents have drink problems, it can result in neglect, food poverty, hurt or abuse, not to mention the example they're learning about what "having a good time" means.

In the workplace, problems were cited with accidents, absenteeism and ability to carry out tasks. But most of us think that's other people.

When I embarked on a recent no booze, no bread week for a health boost, I actually thought getting rid of the carbs would be the difficult bit.

But, in fact, that first glass of wine in the evening after a hard day's work was the hardest to do without.

I'm fairly certain I don't have a drink problem. I've never taken time off for a hangover or been caught drink-driving.

But in that Irish way we all have, I'm a social drinker who also drinks at home, in the company of friends and at family gatherings. I am generally to be found with a glass in my hand at parties. Compared to a Spanish or Danish mother, I expect I'd be considered as someone who drinks too much.

Am I setting a bad example? I hope not, but the appalling tragedy of Chloe Kinsella, the 15-year-old found drowned in Limerick after going on a drinking binge, made me think about it.

She bought tickets for a One Direction concert, obviously in a good mood, which then ended so sadly for her family.

ELOQUENT

I'm not for a minute suggesting that her mother, Shirley Kinsella, is irresponsible in any way. Far from it.

Ms Kinsella's eloquent words at the inquest this week served as a warning to all of us trying to get the message through to children about drinking. "I'm going through hell and back again, and young people are still drinking near my house," she said. You're wasting your time talking to them.

"I just hope to God, for their own sakes, that they just look after themselves. I wouldn't like anyone to go through that. I will never be right after this."

But her heartfelt plea to young people may well fall on the deaf ears.

The casualties of the thankfully short-lived Neknomination craze were horrendous, but how many young people are ending up with damaged livers, getting their stomach pumped or developing a lifelong addiction because of something that started out as "fun" in their teens?

Is it an "Irish" thing, really? We certainly seem to be the European experts.

We wring our hands for the solution. We can tax drink, ban drink advertising and lambast our politicians and gardai for not doing enough.

But in the end, to find out what's really to blame, Irish society needs to hold up a mirror to itself.


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