Community action has a larger role to play in reducing the consumption of alcohol in Ireland and tackling the problems it brings to local communities. That is the view of Dr Ann Hope, who spoke during a Mayo Drug and Alcohol Awareness Week seminar last week.
In her address, Dr Hope revealed research that found that over half a million children in Ireland are living with adults who engage regularly in hazardous drinking. Her study, ‘Hidden Realities - Children’s Exposure to Risks from Paternal Drinking in Ireland’, is based on an examination of general population surveys, agency records and interviews with family support services.
Dr Hope said that only the most-severe child-welfare and neglect cases resulting from alcohol misuse tended to come to the attention of social services. However, she added that these severe cases develop out of a larger pool of ‘less risky’ families in which children are also suffering.
She said that in local communities and local authorities can play a big role in ensuring children are protected from alcohol and in changing people’s attitude to alcohol. “ Change comes from the bottom and so communities need to take that on board,” she said.
Tommy Lyons, a Garda Juvenile Liaison Officer based in Ballina and former manager of the Ballina Stephenites Gaelic football team and a former Mayo football selector, welcomed Dr Hope’s comments and said that communities were a small but important cog in a big wheel. Everybody should play their part in changing young people’s attitudes to alcohol, he said.