Let teens drink in pubs, says councillor

Drop the legal drinking age and let teens drink in pubs under parental supervision.

Drop the legal drinking age and let teens drink in pubs under parental supervision.

That was the suggestion made by Councillor Matthew Keegan at last week’s meeting of Portlaoise Town Council.

Cllr Matthew Keegan proposed that the Department of Health instigate a national programme targeting parents, explaining their role in teaching teenagers about the positive and negative effects of alcohol.

Cllr Keegan, a former publican, lambasted the recent criticism of the Guinness-sponsored Arthur’s Day, accusing the media of focusing on all the negative connotations of this annual event.

“There wasn’t the mayhem (the papers) predicted,” he pointed out. “If you go down Portlaoise town any Saturday night, the violence is miniscule. Drinking in pubs is part of our culture, the Irish have a great social life.”

“Over the years there have been a lot of drives to dampen down teenage drinking and they were all unsuccessful,” he continued. “The legal age is 18, that should be dropped to 17 and teenagers should be allowed into pubs so long as they’re supervised by their parents.

“They should be taught to drink in an acceptable fashion, they’re getting no training in how to drink,” he concluded.

His motion was supported by Portlaoise Town Council, although mayor, Cllr Willie Aird wryly remarked: “It’s like asking, ‘Can I go to the disco?’ and your mother says, ‘I’m going too’.”

Cllr Kathleen O’Brien said it was a good motion, as “teenagers learn to drink behind the sheds”, but she did not believe the drinking age should be lowered.

“It’s a good idea for parents to bring them out,” she said.

According to Alcohol Action Ireland, more than 1,700 Irish people have died from alcohol-related illnesses since February 2012. There are almost twice as many deaths due to alcohol in Ireland as due to all other drugs combined.

The group also say that one in three road crash deaths in this country is alcohol related, while one in four deaths of young men aged 15 - 39 in Ireland is due to alcohol.