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Minister ‘genuine’ about tackling alcohol problem

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Minister ‘genuine’ about tackling alcohol problem


Anton McNulty


THE Minister of State for Health, Róisín Shortall is genuine about tackling the alcohol problem in Ireland according to Ballina man John Higgins but he feels she faces a difficult task going against the drinks industry.
The RTÉ current affairs programme, ‘The Frontline’ dedicated its entire programme last Monday to the issue of the cost of alcohol and invited Ballina man John Higgins and his wife Anne to appear in the audience. John and his family exclusively told their harrowing tale to The Mayo News at the end of October.
The Higgins’ lost their son David to suicide last March and have called for an end to below cost selling of alcohol in supermarkets. On the show John outlined how his son David lost his life after leaving a house party in the early hours of the morning and he believes that cheap alcohol and all night house parties contributed to his son’s death.
Following the programme, John and Anne spoke to Minister Shortall who was a guest on the show. The Minister has expressed her desire to regulate the sale of alcohol. John Higgins told The Mayo News that he believes she is genuine in her desires to end the below cost selling of alcohol.
“We spoke to the Minister following the show and she was genuinely interested in what we had to say and there was none of the usual political waffle from her. Without doubt we welcome the direction she is taking and I honestly believe she wants to do something about the alcohol problem.
“I believe her heart is in the right place and I wish her well. But I know it won’t be easy for her because she is up against it. The drinks industry is a strong organisation who have in the past twisted the government’s arm to leave them be and allow self-regulation. That cannot be allowed to happen again,” he said.
Since the Higgins’ story was first told in The Mayo News, the issue of the availability of cheap alcohol has made national headlines on a number of occasions.
John has been asked to appear on a number of programmes since then and while he admits it is tough to talk about David’s death he is prepared to do it if ‘something good comes from it’.
“We are not enjoying the attention and if you look at Anne’s face during the programmes it is torture. As long as she is willing to do it, so will I. If something positive comes from this, it will be worth it.”
The run-up to Christmas is probably the busiest time for the sale of alcohol in supermarkets and a time when house parties are frequent. John said he was not against partys as long as they were not just ‘drink fuelled binges’ and he asked young people to think of their parents when out this Christmas.
“Christmas should be an enjoyable and happy time for everyone not just for the people who are out. There will be a lot of parents sitting at home worried sick about their children and I hope young people realise that. If you are having house parties please be responsible and ensure young people get a taxi home when leaving.”