Irish parishes mobilise to combat drug and alcohol abuse

Source: Irish Catholic Media Office

The Irish Bishops' Drugs Initiative (IBID) yesterday hosted a seminar for parish representatives at St Patrick's College, Maynooth.

Bishop Éamonn Walsh, vice chair of the IBDI, opened the meeting which was also addressed by Ms Marion Rackard, HSE Project Manager, Alcohol Initiatives. Ms Rackard focused on the benefits which accrue from community mobilisation in order to reduce the harm caused by alcohol and drug use in our parishes. Ms Rackard expressed strong support for the work of IBDI parish projects which were first established in 2006.

At today's seminar parish representatives discussed a draft handbook How parishes can respond to alcohol and drug prevention, which will be published later in the year. Information was also shared regarding parish events which were recently organised in order to change community attitudes towards alcohol and other drug misuse.

Bishop Walsh introduced Mr Darren Butler as the IBDI's new Parish Community Development Worker. Mr Butler will work with Mr John Taaffe, IBDI National Coordinator, and will be based in Maynooth. Bishop Walsh said: "Our target audience is the local community. Our work attempts to address, and prevent, the damage that alcohol inflicts on local communities ­ therefore our efforts to improve our local quality of life starts with parishes themselves. We need to educate children that alcohol is a drug which, if misused, detrimentally affects the way we think, feel and behave.

"At a national level, the IBDI continues to work for a ban on advertising alcohol at sport and at youth events and we also advocate restrictions on alcohol advertising on television and radio. We call for such public policy decisions in the interest of the common good. Our objectives are reflected in the 1996 European Charter on Alcohol which states: 'All children and adolescents have the right to grow up in an environment protected from the negative consequences of alcohol consumption and, to the extent possible, from the promotion of alcoholic beverages.'

"Our position was further endorsed last month by the review findings of the European Scientific Committee on Alcohol Marketing which concluded that commercial communications (e.g. advertising) increase the likelihood that adolescents will start to use alcohol as well as encouraging them to drink more if they are already using alcohol.

"Our initiative (the IBDI) combines the spiritual with the practical so that our responses will address the whole person: body, mind and spirit. The parish, however, has a special relationship with families because the parish is the spiritual heart of each community. As the family is where young people develop their core values, the parish has to be resourceful in responding to the needs of families" Bishop Walsh said.

IBDI National Coordinator, Mr John Taaffe, said: "Parishes are ideally placed to mobilise interested people to work together and to form partnerships with dedicated voluntary and State agencies so as to prevent drug and alcohol problems locally. Today the IBDI warmly welcomes 35 new parishes which have registered to participate in our prevention initiative, representing parishes from the North and South of Ireland."

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