YOUNG people in Fermanagh between the ages of 11-16 are consuming alcohol illegally and action must be taken now before it is too late.
Those are the views of local UUP councillor Raymond Farrell.
“I do have real concerns”, he said, “about the well-being of our young people who are involved in underage drinking here in Fermanagh.
“I have spoken to and been taking on board the concerns of adults, health professionals and in particular parents who have expressed concerns to me.
“Young lives are in danger of falling into the addiction path, not to mention the devastating impact it has on families, relationships and increasing crime rates and anti-social behaviour.”
He recalled that, just a month previously, a 14-year-old girl was taken to hospital by police for taking too much alcohol in an incident involving four young people.
While no arrests were made, Mr Farrell, pictured, said it highlighted an ‘alarming’ problem in the county.
He went on: “Figures I have studied from 2007 indicate that up to 54% of young people between the ages of 11-16 admitted consuming alcohol in Northern Ireland.
“In the 15-16 year old age group, that figure was as high as 80%. With the significant challenges we face in Northern Ireland and, indeed here in Fermanagh in tackling mental health problems, it is concerning that statistics show that in up to 60% of suicides, alcohol was a factor.”
Councillor Farrell, who is a mental health practitioner, said he had been campaigning along with others to support mental health resilience in Fermanagh’s young people.
“One really important part of this must be educating our young to the very real harm alcohol can do to a young person’s mental and physical health.
“For the next generation, we must put action into place instead of words and lip service.”
He said he would be doing all he can to protect young people by seeking to highlight dangers as well as lobbying the Northern Ireland Assembly to be proactive.
“ I know that the Pubs of Ulster have also serious concerns surrounding the sale of cheap alcohol, and I have to say that the thought of purchasing alcohol cheaper than the price of a bottle of water is just not on.
“We must act and act now or pay a heavy price later.”
To read more.. Subscribe to current edition