Purple Flag project backed by Diageo, one of the largest drinks industry firms in the world.

Sligo News File Online.

If the Purple Flag which Sligo is chasing is not about the promotion of alcohol consumption just what does it represent?

The project is backed by Diageo, one of the largest drinks 
firms in the world, and in Sligo we understand, is set to be supported by the county council with the aid of funds provided by the EU.

From what can be seen in press statements and reports surrounding the project, the emphasis is on the encouragement of a 5pm to 5am nightlife in town centres, which, in Sligo, would mean art galleries, library services, museums and the like being open into the early hours of the morning if the purpose of the programme simply isn’t the furtherance of the pub and night club industry of the area.

We are told the project has the backing of the gardai. Local figures have been pictured at the Town Hall following assessment for the Purple Flag, and announcement that early delivery of the apparently much sought after flag is expected – among those in the photograph, published on the official website of the county council, is the chairperson of the Sligo Municipal Council, Cllr. Tom MacSharry.

Of course, it would be perfectly understandable that there would be some measure of excitement and anticipation of ‘bloom’ if the project was going to lift the town’s wider economy. However, there’s been no mention of how the flag – described as the ‘gold standard for night-time destinations’ – is to bring about the development of new non-alcohol type outlets in Sligo, nor in the least help curtail the plague that is excessive drinking in
the country.

Will late night drinking, it’s wondered turn out to be a magnet
for the young, for trouble in the town centre? What demand will be placed on garda resources to police the town at night, on ambulance services, on hospital facilities?

Does the use of a flag for which the backers include a global drinks industry not constitute a form of drinks advertising, glamorisation of alcohol?  Further, does Sligo really need a drinks industry sponsored symbol to promote the development of its town centre? As well, if the sponsor is a drinks firm, why should it be backed with taxpayers’ money in the form of EU funds, if such is the case. Are there not more deserving causes towards which such funds could go, for example a youth project or the relaunching of the Twist type soup kitchen for needy families of the area?

This is the impact which Alcohol Action Ireland says alcohol consumption is having on health in the country:

88 deaths every month in Ireland are directly attributable to alcohol

There are almost twice as many deaths due to alcohol in Ireland as due to all other drugs combined

Alcohol is a factor in up to one third of all deaths by unnatural causes, according to statistics from one county

Chronic alcohol-related conditions are becoming increasingly common among young age groups. Between 2005 and 2008, 4,129 people aged under 30 were discharged from hospital with chronic diseases or conditions of the type normally seen in older people

Alcoholic liver disease deaths almost trebled (188% increase) between 1995 and 2009

The figures also reveal considerable increases of alcohol liver disease among younger age groups. Among 15-34 -years-olds, the rate of ALD discharges increased by 275%, while for the 35-49 age group, the rate increased by 227%. These increases suggests we
are starting to see the effects of the large increases in alcohol consumption up to 2003.

Alcohol-related admissions to acute hospitals doubled between 1995 and 2008

Alcohol-related deaths also increased during the same period, from 3.8 deaths per 100,000 to 7.1 deaths per 100,000

St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin figures show a 335pc increase in admissions with alcoholic liver disease between 1995 and 2010

Over 14,000 people were admitted to the liver unit in St Vincent’s Hospital for the treatment of alcohol dependence in 2011.

The harmful use of alcohol is especially fatal for younger age groups and alcohol is the world’s leading risk factor for death among males aged 15-59, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO)

According to the WHO, almost 4 per cent of all deaths worldwide are attributed to alcohol. This is a greater number than deaths caused by HIV/AIDS, violence or tuberculosis

In Ireland, between 2000 and 2004, it was estimated that 4.4 per cent of deaths were caused by alcohol. This figure includes deaths from chronic alcohol-related conditions such as alcoholic liver disease and liver cancer, and accidental and non-accidental deaths while under the influence of alcohol

Alcohol increases the risk of developing more than 60 diseases and medical conditions, even at low levels of consumption

Alcohol is the third leading risk factor for death and disability in the EU after tobacco and high blood pressure

A more than 3% increase in unemployment in the EU is associated with a staggering 28% increase in deaths from alcohol use disorders, according to the WHO

Alcohol and Injuries:

More than one in four of those attending accident and emergency departments have alcohol‑related injuries, almost half of which occurred to people aged under 30 years

Alcohol is a factor in one in four traumatic brain injuries

Alcohol is a factor in 80% of cases of assaulted patients admitted to neurosurgery units

Additional damning evidence (2013) published by Alcohol Action Ireland:

More than half (54%) of 18-75 year old drinkers were classified as harmful drinkers which equates to 1.35 million harmful drinkers in Ireland

75% of all alcohol consumed in Ireland in 2013 was done so as part of a binge drinking session

One in five (21.1%) drinkers engage in binge drinking at least once a week

Almost two thirds (64.3%) of 18-24 year old drinkers consume six or more standard drinks on a typical drinking session

One third (33%) of men and more than one fifth (23%) of women who consumed alcohol in the week prior to the Health Research Board’s Irish Alcohol Diaries 2013 survey consumed more than the HSE low risk drinking guidelines of 16.8 standard drinks for men and 11.2 standard drinks for women

One in eight (13%) men and almost one in ten (9%) women drank their recommended weekly guidelines in one sitting in the week prior to the HRB survey. Among 18-24 year-olds, 28% of men and 22% of women consume weekly guidelines in one sitting

The World Health Organisation’s Global status report on alcohol and health 2014 found that 39% of all Irish people aged 15-years-old and over had engaged in binge drinking, or “heavy episodic drinking”, in the past 30 days. This puts Ireland just behind Austria (40.5%) at the top of the 194 countries studied and well ahead of our neighbours in Britain (28%)

When the 19% of non-drinkers in Ireland were excluded by the WHO, it found that almost two thirds of Irish men (62.4%) and one third of Irish women (33.1%) who drink alcohol had engaged in binge drinking in the previous month, almost half (48.2%) of all drinkers

Over half of all Irish drinkers have a harmful pattern of drinking, according to the SLÁN survey, that’s 4 in 10 women and 7 in 10 men who drink, which amounts to an estimated 1,453,250 adults

In 2013, the average Irish person aged 15+ drank 10.73 litres of pure alcohol

When we consider the fact that one in five adults in Ireland don’t drink alcohol, it means that those who do drink are consuming much more than the average consumption statistics show

Average alcohol consumption in 2010 was 145% higher than the average amount consumed in 1960

Alcohol consumption in Ireland increased by 46% between 1987 (9.8 litres) and 2001 (14.3 litres) when our consumption reached a record high

OECD figures show how alcohol consumption in Ireland almost trebled over four decades between 1960 (4.9 litres) and 2000 (14.2 litres)

Ireland continues to rank among the highest consumers of alcohol in the 26 countries in the enlarged EU.

From 1980 to 2010, average alcohol consumption in Europe decreased by an average of 15 per cent, while consumption in Ireland over that period increased by 24 per cent

Irish adults binge drink more than adults in any other European country, with 44 per cent of  drinkers stating that they binge drink on a regular basis

The highest proportion of binge drinkers is in the 18-29 age group. Young people are also more likely to exceed the weekly low-risk limit for alcohol consumption

Alcohol Action Ireland details of the cost of alcohol abuse:

Alcohol misuse in Ireland is fuelling a growing health and crime crisis that is costing us an estimated €3.7billion a year in health, crime/public order and other ancillary costs, such as work-place absenteeism.

At a time when we need to do more with less, it’s worth remembering that these costs are avoidable costs. According to the Chief Medical Officer of Ireland, a 30% reduction in alcohol-related harm would result in a cost saving to the Exchequer of €1billion.

Alcohol-related harms cost each tax payer in Ireland an estimated  €3,318 a year. And that’s just the financial cost:

88 deaths every month in Ireland are directly attributable to alcohol

One in eleven children in Ireland say parental alcohol use has a negative effect on their lives – that is about 109,684 children

There are 1,200 cases of cancer each year from alcohol in Ireland

One in four deaths of young men aged 15-39 in Ireland is due to alcohol

One in three road crash deaths is alcohol-related

Based on the figures in the Health Research Board’s Irish Alcohol Diaries 2013 report, more than 150,000 Irish people are dependent drinkers, more than a 1.35 million are harmful drinkers and 30% of people interviewed say that they experienced some form of harm as a result of their own drinking.

The report also reveals we underestimate what we drink by about 60%. If this is the case, the situation is much worse than what has been presented in the comprehensive report.

The question we need to ask ourselves is – how much is too much?