Young people in Ireland are increasingly looking for an alternative to the drinking scene, with up to 8,000 teenagers signing up to the Pioneer Association last year.

The temperance group, the full title of which is The Pioneer Total Abstinence Association, said visits by their representatives to national and secondary schools are increasingly paying off, with more and more students pledging to abstain from alcohol until they turn 18 and to keep away from illicit drugs for life.

Raymond O'Connor, project coordinator of the long-running organization, said its growing appeal among youngsters reflects increased awareness about the dangers of excessive drinking.

"We live in an age where people are a lot more conscious of their health and that message certainly seems to be getting through to young people and has helped lead to a growth in short-term pledges,” O’Connor said.

"Also alcohol-related issues seem to be in the news every day, so people are much more aware of the problems it creates."

In total, more than 130,000 people have signed up to the Pioneers, who stress their message is "not anti-alcohol, rather anti the abuse of alcohol and excessive consumption"

Founded in 1898 by Jesuit priest Father James Cullen, the iconic Pioneer Pin soon became a ubiquitous symbol of teetotalism, set against an alcohol-fuelled culture.

Successive surveys have found that 20 percent, or one in five, Irish people describe themselves as non-drinkers, the highest in Europe.

But those statistics are overshadowed by the amount of booze knocked back tee-totalers, which again tops the list of European nations.

According to recent figures, the average Irish adult knocks back 11.9 liters of pure alcohol a year. That's the equivalent of 44 bottles of vodka, or 470 pints, or 124 bottles of wine in the space of just 12 months.

"When you add in the total number of tee-totalers who are not Pioneers, it gives you some idea of the kind of drinking that's going on,” O’Connor said.

"Certainly, if people don't drink or drink in moderation, it's one less area to worry about in life and leads to more peace and harmony in the home.

"There's a lot of peer pressure among young people to drink, particularly when they go to college, where it's ingrained in their social life."

"But when I give talks, I also tell people that they are much more likely to have a successful relationship or marriage if they seek a life away from alcohol. Statistics show that up to 50 percent of marriages break up due to alcohol abuse."

 

Young people in Ireland are increasingly looking for an alternative to the drinking scene.iStock