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29 Jun 2022

Report finds low support in Donegal for measures to reduce alcohol harm

A new report has concluded that there is strong evidence that views on alcohol policy in Donegal differ from those elsewhere in Ireland

New bulletin highlights ‘serious issue with alcohol’ in Kilkenny

The report from the Donegal-based Alcohol Forum Ireland was based on a survey of more than 900 people in the county

There is “little support” in Donegal for some measures to reduce alcohol-related harm compared to other parts of the country, an expert on substance abuse has said.

A report on alcohol consumption and attitudes to alcohol policy in the county has found that 36% of students and 32% of adults who took part in a survey believe minimum pricing is a good thing.

The report from the Donegal-based Alcohol Forum Ireland, which was published this week, was based on a survey of more than 900 people in the county comprising 395 students at the Letterkenny Institute of Technology (now Atlantic Technological University), and 536 adults resident in the county.

The survey asked a series of questions about their consumption of alcohol, their experiences of harm from others drinking and their attitudes towards a range of public health policy measures designed to reduce alcohol harm.

One of the authors of the report, Dr Gillian Shorter from Queen’s University Belfast, said the low support in Donegal for public health measures revealed by the survey was surprising.

“Based on the different pockets [of the country] where we have asked those questions, certainly Donegal has much, much less support for public health measures that are evidence-based, and that can reduce alcohol harm. Donegal has quite low support for those compared to other places in Ireland.”

She said the support for minimum pricing is higher in other counties, reaching 66% in Galway.

“That is a big difference,” she said.

The report found that 58% of students and 53% of adults reported that they drink hazardously, with 46% and 36% respectively indicating that they had consumed six or more drinks on a single drinking occasion in the month previous to the study.

Almost a quarter of all participants across both groups felt that someone in their household is a heavy drinker and almost one in five people (19%) felt someone else’s drinking in their house had impacted them negatively in the past year.

The survey found 19% of students and 33% of adults agreed the number of alcohol outlets should be reduced.

The report concluded that there is strong evidence that views on alcohol policy in Donegal differ from those elsewhere in Ireland. It called for a discussion of the findings to decide the next steps to reduce alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harm.

The report was launched at Alcohol Forum Ireland’s event Building A Safer Donegal which took place at the Atlantic Technological University in Letterkenny on Tuesday.

Dr Shorter said the quarter of participants who felt that someone in their household is a heavy drinker and the one in five who felt someone else’s drinking in their house had impacted them negatively in the past year, are likely to be underestimated.

“Usually when we think of harm, what people are thinking of is violence, neglect, domestic violence - these kinds of things are important. But sometimes people don’t think about things like arguments, someone being in a low mood constantly because of their drinking, or drinking leading to anxiety and the impact that has. It can be the less obvious things that can also be playing a role.”

Donegal’s border with Northern Ireland and cross-border trade are factors in alcohol consumption in the county, she added.

The price differential with Northern Ireland means “people can cross the border to get cheaper alcohol which kind of negates the point of minimum pricing”.

She said she hopes the report can empower people in Donegal “to take action that is meaningful for them”.

“It is for Donegal to decide how they want to go forward.”

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