So, with binge-drinking being such a major social issue among the students in Ireland, why are the young people not being consulted on the issue? Dr Michael Byrne of UCC certainly thinks they should be. What do you guys think?

On December 2, RTÉ’s flagship current affairs programme ran a special on “Ireland’s Young Drinkers”.

Primetime spent 4 nights on the streets of 3 of Ireland’s towns, secretly filming the “yoof of Ireland” out on the lash. It was obvious from the footage that Stumbleville, as comedian Des Bishop calls it, is not confined to the streets of Cork.

The young, and the not so young, in varying states of disarray and in differing stages of intoxication, captured in glorious Technicolor. Captured for all to see, discuss, and later dissect in forensic detail in the Primetime RTE TV studios.

Everyone apparently picking over the carcass of what seemed like the remains and the reputation of a whole generation.  Everyone afforded the opportunity to offer their opinion as to the cause and the effects of young peoples’ hazardous drinking. Everyone that is, except “the young people”.

For, despite the undeniable expertise and quality of the panel of guest speakers with their valuable insights and contributions, RTE did a real disservice by not making a greater effort to get the views, insights and opinions of young people on the issue.

 It was not as though these opinions and insights were not available. In the audience that night was a significant number of students and student representatives, invited guests, invited to participate in, but more accurately as it turned out, observe, the important discussion as to Ireland’s bizarre relationship with alcohol and the resulting hazardous consequences for our young people.

USI representatives, representatives of local students’ unions and non-union students all available to contribute to the debate, or at the very least, have their views listened to and their opinions heard. But it didn’t happen.

The student voice wasn’t heard, and the student leadership must have felt as frustrated, angry, and probably even as patronised as it is possible to feel, as they sat there and listened. Listened as to how the youth of Ireland were drinking themselves into oblivion and p*** their futures down the drain, whilst simultaneously ruining the reputation of the whole nation, with their anti-social behaviour and their naggins of vodka.

There is an undeniable problem of hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption in Ireland, amongst the old, and the young. Considerable evidence, expertise and experience is available as to how this might be best addressed.

Most of that experience and expertise does indeed lie with the older generation, seasoned academics and long-in-the tooth professional practitioners, but it is bizarre in the extreme not to at least consult and listen to the very constituents and constituent groups involved when considering the problem and developing a solution.

Surely the days of doctor or teacher knows best are long behind us?

I have no doubt that many students and “young people” may have real difficulty with some of suggested evidenced-based interventions to tackle the issue of alcohol-related harm. Some might even oppose them. I might even argue vehemently with these students on these very issues. I might profoundly disagree with them. But at the very least I would like to hear them.

Isn’t it time that those of us who are committed to addressing this issue, engage with young people and truly listened.  

In this week, of all weeks, when 2 young transition year students from Cork can win the BT Young Scientist competition by showing Ireland that the youth of today didn’t lick their alcohol-drinking habits off the ground, it is surely no longer acceptable to be a matter of –

“When we want your opinion, we’ll give it to you”

Éistimis.  Let’s listen.

Dr Byrne is currently working on a collaborative project between the USI, UCC Health Matters and the Irish Student Health Association to develop an Accreditation and Awards Scheme for 3rd level institutions that develop Action Plans to reduce alcohol-related harm amongst students.

Head of Student Health Department UCC, Co-Coordinator of UCC Health Matters and Communications Officer of the Irish Student Health Association.

You can find him at: UCC Health MattersUCC Student HealthIrish Student Health or on Twitter @UCCHealthMatter