Ballina man John Higgins wants to see an outright ban on the sale of alcohol in supermarkets.
Mr Higgins’s son David took his life last year after attending a house party where a large volume of alcohol had been consumed.
In recent weeks, Minister of State for Health Roisín Shortall gave details of minimum pricing for alcohol, which is due to be included in a public health bill this year. While John Higgins welcomed her effort to address the sale of cheap alcohol, he said more needs to be done.
Fiona Ryan, Director of Alcohol Awareness Ireland has also welcomed Shorthall’s plan, saying it would help reduce the €3.6 billion annual cost of alcohol-related abuse on the HSE and the State.
Recommendations which will be reportedly included in the bill include a 50 per cent increase on the cheapest cans of lager in supermarkets. The price of own-brand vodka could also be increased by €4.
John Higgins first called for an end to below-cost selling of alcohol in supermarkets in an interview with The Mayo News last November. During the interview, Mr Higgins also spoke emotively about his son’s death. The family’s poignant story went on to reach national prominence, and Mr Higgins has continued to restate his belief that cheap alcohol consumed at all-night house parties contributed to 21-year-old David’s death.
Soon after the original interview, Mr Higgins appeared on RTÉ current affairs programme, ‘The Frontline’ with Minister Shorthall. He and his wife, Anne, discussed the issue of the cost of alcohol both on the show and in private with Minister Shorthall following the broadcast.
A recent report by the National Substance Misuse Steering Group recommends a complete ban on all alcohol affiliation with sporting events, a ban on the outdoor advertising of alcohol and minimum pricing and higher excise duties.
Commenting on the report, Mr Higgins argued that while curbing alcohol advertising would be a help, it would not solve the problem. “Advertising is a big factor, but there’s not too much point cutting down on [alcohol] advertising if you can walk into a sweet shop and there it is right in front of you. When I think about it there’s a lot more that can be done. Ideally what I’d like to see is a ban on the sale of alcohol in supermarkets.”
The Ballina native, who enjoys a few pints himself, acknowledged that these proposals would not be popular with some. “I’m probably going to ruffle a few feathers … But if someone was in our shoes they might see it different.
“At the party which my son David went to there was massive amounts of free alcohol available to between 30 and 40 people. That will tell you how cheap it is. People are giving it away. That’s what cost us our son.”