CHRISTMAS parties are in full swing at the moment and quite often lead to excesses which should cause people to question their relationship with alcohol. The Irish have a colourful reputation when it comes to drinking and it is not something to be proud of when it leads to harm of oneself or others.
At the moment, the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill 2015 is making very slow progress through the Oireachtas, mainly because of intense lobbying of TDs and senators by the drinks industry who are fond of glibly encouraging us to enjoy alcohol responsibly. Unfortunately, these exhortations are largely ignored, so the legislation – first published this month last year – has a range of initiatives, backed by strong international evidence, aimed at saving lives and reducing the harm and misery caused as a result of the way alcohol is consumed by so many people in Ireland.
According to Prof Frank Murray, president of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and chairman of the Alcohol Health Alliance Ireland, three people die in Ireland every day as a result of alcohol use. Abuse of the drug is placing an increasingly unsustainable burden on the health services, as every night an estimated 1,500 hospital beds are occupied as a result of alcohol use, which directly contributes to the number of patients who are forced to wait on trollies to access hospital care.
Our politicians are the ones that need to act responsibly now and get this Bill enacted into law as an urgent priority.