We Need to Address the Alcohol Culture in Irish Youth

Ireland is often viewed as an alcohol-loving country, a bunch of happy, hard-working, hard-drinking folk. The stereotypes that follow this notion are welcomed by some here, and if not welcomed, ignored at the very least (typically by an older generation). In more recent years, however, many are eager to shake these preconceptions, including, but not limited to, millennials.

After researching the origins of Ireland’s association with alcohol and how it has seemingly developed through time to its existence today, it beckons me to share the current climate of this “alcohol-fueled” country, particularly, its effect on the youth living here today. As a writer for Affinity, I am obviously a teen, therefore, as I am exposed to this culture the most, it is the age group I can write about with the most efficiency.

What sparked off my wanting to write about this wasn’t a one-off event that planted an idea in my head. It was the long-term exposure of this culture that set me off. Culture doesn’t feel like the correct word to use, it’s more of a trend. I’m aware this isn’t an isolated trend exclusive to Ireland and that other societies and countries experience something similar. It’s teenagers. Not something obscure or unique. It’s the glamorization of underage drinking, to be frank. Not due to celebrities or the media, it’s the online and social ‘trend’, if you will, to drink.

The Irish Independent published an article in 2015 titled “Irish Teens are Starting to Drink at Age 13”. In it was a survey given to over two thousand teens between the ages of 15 and 17. The results concluded that 83% of those had consumed alcohol at least once.

Drinking as a teen is seen as one of the vital steps in becoming a ‘proper’ teen, fully living the teenage experience. This mindset is dangerous and a very 1980’s way to live.

Joanna Fortune of Solamh, a clinical psychotherapist specialising in child and adolescent psychotherapy, was also featured in the article. She said, “So be really aware that young people are looking and taking their lead from their parents’ relationships with alcohol.”

It’s a ‘like father like son’ or ‘like mother like daughter’ situation. Teenagers are incredibly impressionable, and they are not immune to their parents’ influences. In fact, some parents will allow their children to disregard the law and drink underage. Some even encourage it.

To conclude and prove my point, Dr. Bobby Smyth, a psychiatrist who specialises in adolescent addiction said, “To drink in an unhealthy way in Ireland is sort of the norm.”

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Majella Votta
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Majella is a 16-year-old Irish American who loves writing, reading and musicals, with an interest in politics. She wishes to pursue a career in journalism in the future.

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