A new initiative to reduce the impact of alcohol must make parents fully aware of the dangers that drink poses to young people.
The comment came from Cllr Beth Adger at Council’s latest Community Planning and Wellbeing Committee following a presentation on the initiative by Gerry McDonald of the Northern Health and Social Care Trust.
Mr McDonald told members about a variety of new projects being launched to help local communities gain the skills and the knowledge to access services which can address the negative effects of alcohol misuse.
The Trust has received funding from the Big Lottery Fund to deliver the projects in under the title ‘Taking the Initiative to Reduce the Impact of Alcohol’.
Among them is ‘Believe in Youth’, which aims to reduce the physical and mental harm caused by alcohol to young people by delaying the onset of drinking through education and alcohol intervention programmes.
While welcoming that and other projects, Cllr Adger said: “Some children as young as nine or 10 years old are getting alcohol and that’s putting them on the road to disaster.
“They are getting the alcohol from older ones who are going into the shops and buying it for them. I think this should be clamped down on and bigger fines handed out to the shops.”
She said parents had an important role to play in preventing misuse of alcohol and particularly being aware of the dangers of drinking from a young age.
She recounted recently being in a restaurant and watching a father handing his son, aged about six, his beer to drink.
“The wee boy took two or three big drinks and left it over to him again. I couldn’t believe it - teaching a child the taste of alcohol. That’s just wrong!”
Alderman PJ McAvoy said he was “more concerned” about the middle aged retired set, both male and female who, he said, could get into a habit of drinking ‘a bottle of spirits a day and appear normal’.
“An alcoholic is not a drunk,” he pointed out.
Mr McDonald informed the meeting that one of the projects, titled ‘Older Focus’. offers help and support to people aged 55 years and over and their families, who are concerned about alcohol use.
Cllr Roy Gillespie said he was “supportive of getting rid of alcohol completely”, stating “it destroys the body and the mind...and it leads to death. It’s very sad”.
He said he had proposed repeatedly over the years at Council meetings not to permit alcohol licenses for The Braid and The Showgrounds.
“I never even got a seconder,” said Councillor Gillespie