Councillor says education is key to alcohol issue

MAGHERAFELT SF councillor Caoimhe Scullion, a secondary school teacher believes that education is key to tackling the binge-drinking culture here.

Cllr Scullion studied at St Mary’s University College, Belfast and qualified as a secondary school teacher in 2009.

“I was studying in Belfast when these cheap drink offers really started to appear regularly and there is no doubt that they do encourage students and young people to drink excessively and I think that any steps undertaken to stem these irresponsible promotions should be supported,” she said.

“They are not, however, exclusive to the city and as publicans are increasingly under pressure with the downturn in their trade we are seeing this kind of sales tactic being employed in many of our towns and villages. While no-one wants to see small businesses struggling, or having to consider closure, the safety of their customers must take priority above all else.

“There is an onus on those that are responsible for selling the alcohol to do so responsibly, not only in terms of their pricing but also in ensuring that when it is clear that a customer has overindulged that they do not continue to serve them.”

The councillor said she was encouraged to see a meeting held in Belfast last week to discuss the issue of cheap drink promotions in entertainment venues. The meeting brought together Social development minister Nelson McCausland, officials from the Department of Health, Belfast City Council, Translink, the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, Department of Justice alongside representatives of the police, fire service, ambulance service and industry body Pubs of Ulster.

“I would, however, call on the minister for Social development to now think of taking a pro-active approach to this problem as it is bigger than just the issues of pricing. There is a culture of excessive drinking amongst not only the young but many of our people and I believe the only way to address the issue properly is through better education of the dangers of alcohol misuse or abuse. Rather than a reactionary approach following this tragedy we need to look at trying to change the attitudes and habits of those choose to enjoy a drink.

“As a young teacher in a secondary school, and through my work with TIPSA, I have picked up some of the conversations of young people, in their late teens, some of which would certainly be a cause for concern as they recount their nights out. I really believe that given the right guidance and encouragement to participate in discussions about consuming alcohol, its positives and negatives, reasonable use or abuse and dangers many would arrive at their own decision to take a more measured approach to their social drinking. I would call on Nelson McCausland to look at tying in with John O’Dowd, the Sinn Fein minister for Education, to see what more can be done to bring further programmes to our secondary schools.”