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ALCO TOTS; Charity says kids as young as 12 hooked on booze.


ALCOHOL abuse is tearing Irish families apart, with children as young as 12 hooked on drink, Barnardos warned yesterday.

The Irish are drinking 40 per cent more alcohol than 10 years ago - with only Luxembourg faring worse in the European drinking league.

Barnardos said a culture of heavy-boozing - and clever marketing by drinks firms - is tempting children with booze from an early age.

The group's chief executive Owen Keenan added: "Our society is saturated with alcohol.

"No mourning ritual or celebration - including childbirth, christening, First Communion, Confirmation, and Christmas - is complete without an abundance of alcohol.

"As adults we express dismay at the centrality of alcohol in the lives of our young people.

"Yet adult drinking behaviour has provided the conditioning. There can be no denying we have an appaling problem of alcohol abuse in Ireland.

"Alcohol consumption in Ireland has risen 41 percent between 1989 and 1999.

"Over half of Ireland's young people begin drinking before the age of 12 and half of girls and two thirds of boys between 15 and 16 are current drinkers."

The Barnardos report, Families Under The Influence, has detailed how drinking is putting households at breaking point.

The report states children are being put at risk of violence, neglect and abuse when parents get hooked on drink.

Alcohol is a major factor in families splitting up and domestic violence - and it is often children who are the victims.

Mr Keenan added: "Barnardos believes that children and young people have a right to be protected.

"Barnardos want government leadership that acknowledges the extent of the problem and is committed to radical action to change our behaviour in relation to drinking.

"We may wring our hands about drug abuse, yet fail to consider alcohol as a drug.

"One or more parents are often drunk in front of the child, their friends and neighbours.

"Some parents are unable to get up in the morning to get their child ready for school."

Now Barnardos have demanded the government uses extra cash from the tax rise on alcopops to help tackle underage drinking.

Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy put 30 cent on every bottle of alcopops in the Budget 12 days ago.

But Barnardos maintain that politicians have still a lot to do to tackle teenage and underage drinking.

Mr Keenan added: "There must be political leadership and the willingness to confront the influence of the drinks lobby.

"They must be prepared to commit substantial resources - perhaps funded by increased taxation on drink - to fund a range of recreational facilities that would transform every community in the country. They should also replace the current sponsorship of sport by the alcohol industry."


CONCERN: Charity Barnardos wants politicians to tackle alcohol abuse in younger people
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 17, 2002
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