More Towns Opting for Drinks Industry Sponsored Purple Flag

Plans for Town Centre ‘Nightlife’ Gathering Momentum.

Sligo News File Online.

The rush to turn town centres into scenes of increased night-time activity is continuing apace.

Central to the drive seems to be a heightened effort to acquire for the locations a drinks industry sponsored emblem commonly referred to as the Purple Flag.

The flag, we are told, is sponsored by drinks giant, Diageo, one of the largest purveyors of alcohol beverages in the world. Its brands include Guinness, Bushmills and Smithwicks.

Descriptions characterise the emblem as “the gold standard for night-time destinations” and “a programme for excellence in the evening and night-time economy which is finding a strong footing in Ireland”

However, a concern is what it actually stands for, if not the further promotion of alcohol consumption in a state where intake of pure alcohol per person is already the second highest of the more than thirty countries of the OECD.

A report by the HSE has put the cost of illnesses, suicides, road accidents, crime, accidents at work, and premature mortality attributable to alcohol abuse in Ireland at 3.7 billion euros in 2007

Should the horrific revelation not have us at least questioning the wisdom of dashing ahead with plans for the use of our town centres as venues for increasing nighttime “economic” activity into the small hours of the morning?

In an attributed statement, a spokesperson for Diageo has said the company “are proud to support the Purple Flag and all that it stands for in our communities.

“It is fantastic to see that more town and city centres are raising the standards and broadening the appeal of their night-time offering.”

What “offering” Diageo is referring to is not expounded on, but there are few town centres in Ireland where pub and hotel life is supplemented with opportunities for early morning visits to art galleries, library services or museums.

There is clearly in all of this a need for a strong awareness of the effect promotion of alcohol consumption has on young people. In a Submission to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communication, the College of Psychiatrists highlighted the scientific opinion of the ‘Science Group of European Alcohol and Health Forum’ that found “consistent evidence to demonstrate an impact of alcohol advertising on the uptake of drinking among non-drinking young people and increased consumption among existing drinkers.”

The same oireachtas committee also heard of the effect alcohol consumption is already having on Irish society. Alcohol Action Ireland submitted that Ireland, as a country, “has a major alcohol problem with 1,200 deaths per year attributable to abuse”, and that “ten percent of Irish children say their lives have been adversely affected by their parents drinking”. Parental drinking accounts for “one sixth of all cases of child abuse and neglect.” Alcohol, they stated, is “a contributory factor in half of all suicides, and that “the majority of young men who kill themselves are intoxicated.

“There is no product on the planet that causes more deaths and social problem in young men”, the society stressed.

The Irish Cancer Society identified alcohol as “a major risk factor for certain head and neck cancers, particularly mouth cancer, throat cancer and cancer of the larynx (voicebox).

“Alcohol consumption,” said the Society, “can cause cancers of the liver, colon, and rectum in both men and women, and is a cause of breast cancer in women. Three people in Ireland die from oral and pharyngeal cancer (OPC) every week – which is more than skin melanoma or cervical cancer.”

The report warns that “there is no ‘safe’ level of alcoholic drinking.”

Recipients of the UK initiated Purple Flag to date include Dublin, Bray, Killarney, Ennis, Galway and Ballina, in Mayo.

Sligo is one of five applicants at present seeking to secure the flag. According to minutes of a meeting of the now defunct borough council last March, €205,000 had been ‘secured’ at that point for the town programme. It is understood Sligo County Council is also backing the programme with funds provided by the EU.

Sligo News