Leo Varadkar calls for Ireland to tackle its alcohol problem – Irish Times

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has described drugs as a greater killer than road crashes and portrayed Ireland as a country that is dependent on alcohol.

Launching the State’s new national strategy on drug and alcohol use, the Taoiseach said there were 697 drug-related deaths in Ireland during 2014, which was three times the number of road fatalities and 12 times the number of recorded murders.

At a press conference in Dublin Castle, he said he was determined the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill would become law by the end of the year.

The Bill proposes to place restrictions on the sale of alcohol, separate it from other products in retail outlets, and limit advertising. Its progress has been stalled following an intense lobbying campaign in the Seanad.

Mr Varadkar said Ireland, as a country, has a serious problem with alcohol.

“It is the main drug of abuse in Ireland. Like all drugs of abuse, it causes people to behave in ways that they would never consider if they were sober.

“We need to face up to that as a society. The solution is not prohibition. The solution is denormalisation, making sure that alcohol is no longer treated as a normal grocery, something that you buy in a shop as if it were like buying fruit or buying a pizza.

“It’s not. It is a drug. Prohibition won’t work. But we must make it less normal and provide more supports to enable people escape from addiction.”

The Taoiseach was speaking at the launch of Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery, the new national strategy to reduce drug and alcohol use in Ireland over the next years.

Task force

The launch was attended by Minister for Health Simon Harris and the Minister for State with responsibility in this area, Catherine Byrne, who has driven the initiative.

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