By Sarah Mac Donald - 13 August, 2019
Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin has expressed concern over the fact that so many minors have easy access to alcohol, even though 18 is the legal age to consume alcohol in Ireland.
In a post on the Diocese of Elphin’s Facebook page, the bishop highlighted that a lot of underage drinking took place over the weekend at the Sligo Summer Festival. He criticised the adults who gave or sold alcohol to these teenagers.
He said the streets of Sligo were full of young people having a laugh and enjoying the atmosphere.
But he said that some groups of young teenagers were walking around openly with cans of beer, and one particular group had taken over a dilapidated building for an impromptu party.
“What bothers me is that adults who should know better are clearly sourcing alcohol for minors or selling it to them illegally, and without any consideration for the consequences,” Bishop Doran said.
“If we expect our young people to behave responsibly and safely, then we have to begin by behaving responsibly ourselves.”
The legal drinking age in Ireland is 18. It is illegal for anyone under 18 to consume alcohol or for anyone to sell alcohol to someone below the minimum age.
Earlier this year, The Lancet published study findings on adolescent health globally which showed that Ireland has one of the highest rates in the world of binge drinking among teenagers.
The study showed that Ireland’s rate of adolescent binge drinking for females was 61 per cent and the rate for males was 58 per cent.
Bishop Doran told Catholicireland.net that he wasn’t referring to binge drinking as such, “but simply the fact of [minors] having such apparently easy access to alcohol”.
Adults who purchase alcohol or to give it to underage drinkers were also criticised by Fr Bernard McGuckian of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association.
In an interview with the Irish Independent, Fr McGuckian described adults who did this as “seriously irresponsible”.
The Jesuit priest, who retired last year as director of the Pioneers, spent 50 years working with up to 700 secondary schools in Ireland, the US, Canada and New Zealand promoting abstinence among teenagers under 18.
“Our law is not as draconian as in the US. Here you cannot sell alcohol to young people who are underage but in the US you can’t give it to them,” he explained.
Fr McGuckian described alcohol as “the most easily available mood changer”. He said that in the 1970s the concern was teenage drinking, but by the 1980s it was teenage drunkenness and by the 1990s it had become drink and drugs.
Speaking ahead of the Leaving Cert celebrations, the Jesuit said the real concern was the amount of drinking that goes on among Junior Cert students. “Teachers tell me they are more concerned about 15 and 16-year-olds – children – drinking over their Junior Cert results.”