USI cut ties with Drinkaware over credibility issues

Drinkaware have hit back at the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) who ended their partnership with the alcohol awareness body recently.

The USI ended their involvement with the body over their links to the alcohol manufacturers’ industry and their lack of response to Arthur’s Day.

In a statement following a vote at USI National Council, USI President Joe O’Connor said: “The ‘Arthur’s Day’ festival by Diageo further deepened our concerns regarding the credibility of Drinkaware’s alcohol awareness campaign.

“Encouraging students to drink responsibly is still an encouragement for students to drink – regardless of how it’s qualified. Due to this, we have decided that it serves no purpose for USI to work with Drinkaware on any alcohol awareness campaigns.”

However, CEO of MEAS/drinkaware.ie – which was set up and is funded by the alcohol manufacturers, distributors and trade associations of Ireland – Fionnuala Sheehan has hit back at the student body, saying they are not an alcohol prohibition body.

“MEAS/drinkaware.ie does not encourage anyone to drink (indeed it advises there are circumstances where people should not drink alcohol), but we seek to address the realities of alcohol in Irish society as they have developed over time.”

Sheehan said the reality is that the majority of their 18-24 year old target audience do drink alcohol and their research shows a nanny-state “do not drink” approach is actually a turn-off.

While Drinkaware’s message to young people is to take control of their drinking and to drink at their own pace, the USI does not share this view. The representative body intend running independent campaigns on the issue in future.

USI Vice President for Welfare, Denise McCarthy said: “Abuse of alcohol can lead to mental and physical health problems amongst other issues. USI want to ensure that students’ health is at the forefront of any campaigns we run/support in the future. Accordingly, it has been determined we are not best served doing that in partnership with Drinkaware.”

President of DCU’s Students’ Union Aaron Clogher said he feels that while the relationship between Drinkaware and the alcohol industry is “not ideal”, “some of the promotional and information material that they provide is necessary and useful”. He cited the card explaining alcohol measures as one such piece of necessary material as “a lot of people don’t know or understand”  what constitutes one unit of alcohol.

Aoife Mullen

Image Credit: FlickrViaCreativeCommons

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