Sinn Féín protest in Dublin city center to mark the one-year anniversary of the Irish economic bailout.Niall Carson

Drunk Youth Binges

IT is not unusual for children as young as 13 to turn up at the emergency department at Sligo General Hospital paralytic with drink, according to Fergal Hickey, the hospital’s consultant in emergency medicine.

"There's no doubt there has been a huge increase in the numbers of people drinking at a very young age. Twenty years ago, people started to drink around Leaving Cert age,” he said.

“Now, they're drinking at junior discos in their early teens, at an age when they're much more likely to come to grief because they are too young to handle the effects of alcohol. In our emergency department, we see the evidence of that practically every weekend." 

Although he believes the report published by the Health Research Board might be slightly flawed in the way in which the survey was conducted, Hickey is not surprised by the finding that Sligo recorded one of the highest rates in the country of young people treated for alcohol abuse in the past five years.

"There is a major problem with alcohol abuse, and while the focus of this report is on young people, the problem is certainly not confined to that age group. We are seeing lots of adults, and an increasing number of women, coming into our department severely and sometimes dangerously drunk," Hickey says.

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He has also noted a reluctance by parents to accept the reality of their children’s drinking habits, and believes the constant claims of drinks being spiked is merely an excuse to conceal what is really happening.

"When a young person comes in out of his mind with drink, the response from parents almost always is that their drink must have been spiked. But very often there is no evidence of that. What has happened simply is that the young person has taken far too much drink and in a lot of cases has mixed it with something else.

“Until parents wake up to the reality of how alcohol is being abused by their children it will be very hard to combat the problem," he added.

Hickey pinpointed the easy availability of drink for young people as a major contributing factor.

"We're told pubs have never been quieter and yet more people than ever seem to be drinking. It's obvious, therefore, that people are drinking at home and business is booming in supermarkets and off-licenses. The trouble is that this makes it easier for young people to get drink," he said.
- The Sligo Champion

Stole for Granny

A DISTRICT court sitting heard how a young north Kerry man who was living rough stole gritting salt for his grandmother during last winter's bad weather, along with a small quantity of food to keep himself going.

Christopher Higgins of Moyvane pleaded guilty to stealing the food from Garvey's Supervalu in Listowel on December 3, with his solicitor saying he did so out of necessity and not for any material gain.

"This was a man who was living down and out and certainly did not steal for profit," solicitor Pat Enright told Listowel District Court.

"He was living rough and had absolutely no money at the time and so stole some sausage rolls and a pastry. The salt was gritting salt and was for his grandmother who was living in rough conditions."

Enright said that Higgins suffers from a chronic drink problem, but has been doing well in recent times and wants to turn his life around. He added that he also has two suspended prison sentences “hanging over him” for previous theft offenses and is keen to stay out of jail.

Judge Mary O'Halloran ordered that Higgins be assessed for 160 hours of community service in lieu of a two month jail term.
-The Kerryman

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Stale Food Fans

NEARLY half of consumers ignore use-by dates on food, with experts warning they are putting their health at risk, a report has revealed.

A survey conducted by the Food Safety Authority Ireland (FSAI) found that 46% of people had no problem eating food past the use-by or best before date.

One in three people also claimed they would eat food past expiry if it looked and smelled edible.
But FSAI experts warned of the dangers and urged food companies to ensure the shelf life of their products was clearly and accurately marked.

Dr. Wayne Anderson, food science and standards director, said food may be badly contaminated even if it appeared good enough to eat.

"We would caution people to be careful in this regard as food products contaminated with harmful bacteria may look okay and taste and smell no different when they have gone beyond their use-by date," he said.

Use-by and best before dates on food packaging differ.

Best before refers to the date until which the food retains its specific properties.

The health benefits of vegetables, for example, are greater prior to the best-before date but they may still be okay to eat for a period afterwards.

Use-by, however, refers to perishable foods which, after their expiry, can be dangerous from a microbiological point of view.
- Evening Herald

Love Story Ends

SIX years ago a Limerick couple captured the hearts of the nation when they wed in their eighties.

It was finally time for Mary McGrath, 86, to walk down the aisle and take the hand of Martin Considine, 83, after their romance blossomed over cups of tea in the day care center at the Good Shepherd.

Sadly, the couple got to spend just one Christmas together as Martin passed away in 2006, four months after they married, due to an illness. 

Last week, his widow Mary, aged 92, passed away in the Milbrae Lodge nursing home in Newport. The couple made national headlines when they got married on October 22, 2005.

“She was just an inspiration to everyone. It just goes to show you can’t be written off at 86 and you don’t know what’s around the corner,” said Mary’s niece, Patricia McGrath.

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McGrath, one of Mary’s 56 nephews and nieces, delighted in being her aunt’s bridesmaid on the day.

Mary, who worked as a seamstress in Todd’s in Limerick until the age of 63, never married until she met Martin, whom she had known for many years. Martin’s first wife, Mary Ellen, had passed away six years before he married Mary.

The pensioners got married in St. John’s Cathedral and enjoyed a reception afterwards in the Castletroy Park Hotel.

McGrath said her aunt was “like a two-year-old the day she got married” as she was the last member of a family of 14 to wed.

“She was a first time bride at the age of 86. At the end of her life she was just delighted to get married. Hundreds of people came out to see her on the day,” said McGrath.

“They were going out together for about three to four years and then they decided to get married.”

At the time Mary said of the proposal, “I was speechless. I thought about it for a few seconds and said I would. We don’t care what anyone else thinks. Age doesn’t count at all, it is the way you feel yourself.”
-Limerick Leader

Farmer Depression

THE reality of issues facing Donegal farmers when it comes to mental health was voiced at a meeting in Letterkenny.

Speaking at the monthly meeting of Donegal Irish Farmers’ Association, Health Service Executive (HSE) promotions officer Anne Sheridan outlined that research shows 57% farmers wouldn’t want others to know if they have a mental health issue, 42% would hide their diagnosis and 27% would delay help in case others may learn of their condition.

Her talk came as the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) issued a new leaflet detailing the issues surrounding stress and depression in farmers.

She added that by 2020, it’s predicted that depression will be the second biggest health problem.
Sheridan highlighted some of the specific factors for farmers, including the economic situation, farm inspections, the weather, isolation and fears for the future.

She said there was now a greater deal of help than ever before and many of them were in the form of locally based support groups as well as HSE services.

Sheridan said the motto “there is no health without mental health” was true as it affects “many areas of your life.”

Following the talk a number of issues were raised by audience members on the subject of mental health and the problems of revealing such issues with others.

One speaker said, “The perception of what the bank might say to you -- that’s one of the big problems of not talking about it.”

Donegal IFA chairman PJ McMonagle said although there is some great support groups such as GROW, seeking help for the first time was a problem for farmers.

“It is a big barrier, making that first call. It is very hard make that first call,” he said.
-Donegal Democrat

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