Irish Bishops’ Drugs and Alcohol Initiative (IBDI) DVD launch:
“Find the Balance: Dare to Dream”
Archbishop Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh
Tallaght Community School, Dublin
Thursday 15th November 2007
Mr Coffey, distinguished guests, members of staff and pupils of Tallaght Community School,
First of all I would like to thank Archbishop Martin for his warm words of support and welcome. I would also like to thank Bishop Éamonn Walsh for inviting me to launch this exciting and provocative DVD entitled: “Find the balance – Dare to Dream”. It is an initiative of the Irish Bishops’ Conference.
I wish to acknowledge here today the presence of Mayor Billy Gogarty, [Minister Conor Lenihan], Deputy Charlie O’Connor, Deputy Pat Rabbitte [and Deputy Brian Hayes]. As public representatives you have the heavy responsibility of dealing with the consequences of the abuse of alcohol in society both at a constituency level and at a legislative level. I know that each one of you share the concern of the Bishops and others in society about this matter. I thank you for your support here today and for the work that each of you has done to address this issue in policy and legislation. I assure you that the Church will continue to pastorally support those in need of help with problems – either directly or indirectly – arising from alcohol abuse. I believe that the best way to address this issue is through people working together with public representatives, church community leaders, Health Workers, Social Workers, teachers, parents, families and young people.
The context for today’s launch can be traced back to the work of the Irish Bishops’ Drugs and Alcohol Initiative. This committee, carried out pilot projects and consultations with various interest groups. It then spearheaded the drafting of the Bishops’ Conference pastoral letter entitled: Alcohol: The Challenge of Moderation. It was launched by Archbishop Martin last February to coincide with the beginning of Lent.
This pastoral letter was launched under the statue of Fr Theobald Mathew (1790–1856) on O’Connell Street. I reckon that Father Matthew, the famous ‘Apostle of Temperance’, who lived from 1790 to 1856, would have approved of this launch being held outside. He himself was fairly adept at organising and arranging and managing many mass rallies throughout Ireland calling on people to abstain from alcohol abuse. He used the famous slogan “Here goes in the name of God!” or “Ar aghaigh linn in ainm Dé” to launch his national campaign in 1838, from Cork, against the omnipresence of alcohol in Irish society.
Father Mathew was very successful. At one point he had encouraged up to 60,000 people to take the pledge – committing themselves to abstaining from alcohol. This would be an impressive achievement even today but let us remember the environment in which Fr Mathew’s worked: Bad roads, no mobile phones few jobs outside farming. Travel itself was a slow, expensive and dangerous undertaking – and this scene was chillingly set against the backdrop of the Great Famine.
But he did it. Fr Mathew set out to change behaviour and attitudes towards alcohol, with all the odds stacked against him, but he succeeded. Why? Because he had the courage of his convictions. He was committed to challenging the prevailing social norm which was to indulge in alcohol to the detriment of family life and livelihoods. What mattered to Fr Mathew wasn’t popularity or ‘going with the flow’ but rather his concern was to do the right thing and to stand up for what he believed in.
To the young people of Tallaght Community School and elsewhere I want to say, first of all, that this DVD is about you. You are all young, bright individuals whose unique gifts are going to be of great benefit to yourselves and to society at large. This DVD is about your right to dream. To dream about the exciting, positive opportunities that lie ahead for you and your friends. It is about your right to live a happy and healthy life. Yes, a life full of fun and excitement but also a life full of meaning and purpose. This is the balance which protects your dreams and keeps you free from slavery of addiction.
One of the great myths in our culture today is the belief that you can only be happy when you can do what you want, when you want, as you want. This is simply not true. The message of this DVD, is also the message of Jesus and His Church.
The message of this DVD is that to be happy in life – we need a balance in life. To be really happy we need self-control as well as self-determination. Above all, you need self respect. You need a sense of your own dignity and of your own worth. We cannot believe in a God who loves, if we don’t, first of all, love ourselves. Every human being is a child of God – Jesus came to tell us that. This sense of our own dignity – of our own worth – is one of our most precious possessions.
In this DVD you will see people who are living their dreams – a footballer, a sea-rescue pilot, a rally driver. They are in control of their lives. They are certainly in control of their enjoyment of alcohol. They control alcohol – alcohol does not control them.
In this DVD you will hear the complaint -“drink is too easy. It is too easy to access, too easy to turn to, too easy to rely on when things are getting you down”. I would like to ask this question: Here in Ireland, have we made alcohol too easy to access? Have we made it too easy to become what the world says we are – a nation of heavy drinkers. And, if we have, is it something of which we should be proud? In fact we should be embarrassed that this is indeed part of our reputation. Unfortunately, statistics indicate that this is, in fact, the case.
My hope is that this DVD will play some part in ridding us of this rather embarrassing reputation. I invite the young Irish people today to be THE generation to set Ireland free from this rather doubtful distinction. How often in this era has it been our young people who have become the agents for significant social change? Change with regard to smoking, caring for the environment or concern for the global poor?
I have heard of the Young Social Innovators Programme in Tallaght Community School. I am told it is very successful. It has already set a new standard in helping young people address the issue of drugs and other forms of substance abuse. I congratulate you on that success.
So, what about this for a challenge to the young people of today, show us the way to make our country a country to be really proud of in terms of our attitude to alcohol. Hopefully some of you will get the grace to live a life completely free from alcohol. Perhaps, like that great Dublin man, Matt Talbot, you will discover that real happiness is found in faith in God and helping others deal with the problems of abuse of alcohol. Maybe some of you will become pioneers.
For those who do decide to have a drink, I ask you to help Ireland become a place where alcohol is enjoyed responsibly, with balance and moderation.
Could I respectfully suggest the following should become priorities for us all:
· Building supportive caring communities. Churches have a key role in helping to bring this about. Supportive communities offer the best bulwark against social isolation and many of the other problems which flow from, or contribute to, the abuse of alcohol.
· Making heavy drinking and drunkenness as anti-social as we have made many other things which destroy our health and environment like smoking, drink-driving. We need to invest similar amounts of money and energy, and have the same types of advertising campaigns as we had about the effects of smoking and the effects of not eating properly, and the dangers of speeding and drink-driving. Our culture of heavy drinking is the elephant in the room which we need to confront with collective and concerted action. The health and reputation of our country is at stake. Our young people deserve nothing less.
· We need to break, once and for all, the link between sport and advertising alcohol. We need to do it with the same vigour and determination as the effort to remove advertising for tobacco from sports. The stakes are high. The quality of life of whole families and communities is what is at risk.
I thank Mr Pat Coffey, School Principal and Father Paul Hampson, the School Chaplain and all the teachers and students of this Community School for their support.
It is with great pleasure and great hope that I now present a copy of this DVD to one of the many wonderful and talented young people of this country.