Drowning in Drink Spotlight


Drowning in Drink

Stephen Dempster explores the nation's relationship with alcohol, including the social and financial implications of beginning drinking from a young age.


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Transcript


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Just another Belfast Saturday night. Young people here are drinking

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harder than ever before. In the past, they would have been drinking

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drinks of around 4%. Now they are drinking drinks that are 40%.

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a case of lining up the shots on the bark and who can drink the most.

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But where as it used to be teenagers drinking, now it can be

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primary school children out well. You see people in their twenties

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with advanced liver disease and they say they started drinking when

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they were 10 or 12. So how do we break a drinking cycle so ingrained

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Apology for the loss of subtitles for 42 seconds

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A bereaved father looking for the body of he's drowned son. Joe

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Murphy has been out here every day for four weeks with family and

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friends, searching the River Lagan. On this particular day, nothing is

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found, but Joe refuses to stop looking for his son. Joby was a 20-

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year-old barman from Belfast. Six weeks ago, he and his girlfriend

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Karen went to a Snow Patrol concert at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast.

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But it was just a few hours after this photograph was taken that Joby

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died, soon after getting extremely drunk on cheap shot of vodka.

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was into everything when he was younger. He enjoyed life. Because

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of one night of cheap alcohol, he After the concert, Joby and his

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girlfriend went to the Beach Club inside the Odyssey. It was hosting

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its usual Wednesday night offer - 9 shots for �9. The last memory I

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have of him, he had four drinks in his hand. That was it. Everything

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was fine and then they went to the beach club and then it was vodka,

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vodka, vodka. Later that night, so drunk he could hardly walk, Joby

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fell into the River Lagan. His family blamed cheap alcohol. He was

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really drunk and still manage to get a drink at the bar.

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challenge the Beach Club on this But Joby's brother Martin claims he

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saw his brother and others being served whilst they were heavily

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drunk. Me and my friend, there was guy there. We had to physically

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lift him up. He still got served. Have you ever been in the Beach

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Club and been drunk and been served? Plenty of times. When we

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went back to the Beach Club, they told us their staff is trained to

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spot drunk people, but it is not an easy thing to ascertain. Do you

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think it is partly Joby's fault? is. The drink is so cheap. It is

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like giving a child a bar of chocolate. If the Beach Club has

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not been open that night, would Joby still be alive? He would. 100

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Alcohol abuse is costing Northern Ireland up to �900 million a year.

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Alcohol-related deaths have gone up by almost 50 % in the last decade.

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Hospital admissions have also risen by more than 50 % in five years. -

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15%. The biggest rise been among 15-24 year-olds. In the wake of

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Joby Murphy's death, the Stormont Executive has vowed to introduce

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new legislation to ban irresponsible alcohol promotions.

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Tonight on Spotlight we investigate some of these nightclubs running

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these promotions and expose how they blatantly disregard the

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Spotlight has learned of a significant rise of violent

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assaults in Belfast city centre in the last year, which police sources

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believe are linked to drinking One area where incidents have been

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happening is here, outside the Odyssey, which is home to some of

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Northern Ireland's busiest night Our youngsters seemed to have taken

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over the night time economy and we don't know what to do about it.

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Hyland runs the SOS buses. They are staffed by trained volunteers to

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offer medical support and a shoulder to cry on for the young

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people in various stages of drunkenness. Joe says many of his

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team joined after visiting the bus to pick up their own children.

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Things are getting worse. As long as alcohol is very, very cheap, as

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long as we have a culture where we send our children into places like

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this. We have given the space to them because we are now staying at

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home. There has at times been serious drunken violence at the

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Odyssey. On this night, people are falling down and being sick. The

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mood is generally good-natured, but we do see plenty of trouble. It is

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close to chucking out time. We have seen a lot of drunk people, but

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what has been impressive is the way the security staff, the police and

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the SOS bus work together. Although there are lots of drunk people

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around, it does feel quite safe. How many times do you think you

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have been drunk? This youth worker insists there

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have been changes in drinking habits in young people over the

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last few years. It is a case of I am going out and I'm going to get

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drunk. I am going to have the greatest time I'm never going to

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remember. At Addiction NI, there has been an increase in people

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coming for help. The demand for our treatment service has doubled in

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the last three years. We are seeing 2,000 people a year in Northern

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Ireland and the majority of those people have alcohol problems.

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Director Clare Armstrong also believes this is down to a major

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And this is that culture in action - so called booze buses which young

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people travel on to get to a nightclub. This footage shows

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clubbers drinking neat alcohol mixed with beer. It was on a

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website, but was taken down after sparking controversy in the media.

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Young people are drinking spirits as their first drink. They have

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gone from drinking something that was around 4% in strength to

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something that is 40%. This culture of downing shots is so popular that

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it is even highlighted in this Neil McDougall, Northern Ireland's

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leading liver specialist, says that this drink culture is the reason

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why liver disease has doubled in the last few years. He says the

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patients he sees are getting younger. We are regularly seing

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people in their twenties with advanced liver disease. It is

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something we have become more aware of in the last five, 10 years. It's

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not the usual alcoholic in their forties, it is people drinking

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excessively just because they can get their hands on it. The family

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of Joby Murphy met a Stormont Minister who wants to bring in

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legislation to ban drink promotions. The Executive is also watching to

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see if Scotland is successful in introducing a minimum price for

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alcohol. There is determination on the part of the Executive to deal

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with this. Government is really committed to do this issue.

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just how committed are the authorities to making nightclubs

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behave responsibly? We visited a few nightclubs in Belfast city

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centre to find out if it is possible to buy alcohol after 1am

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when premises should stop serving And sure enough, two vodkas are

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All four clubs were quite openly serving alcohol between one and

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three in the morning, so what does that say about the attitudes about

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nightclubs to our drinking laws? And the authority's ability to

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enforce them? In Northern Ireland three quarters of us drink and

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enjoy the relaxation and social benefits, which come with sensible

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consumption. No-one's suggesting they should stop, but all the

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experts we've spoken to emphasise there is the change in the

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intensity of young people's drinking and they all say the other

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change is that children are starting to drink at a younger age.

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We have had clients starting drinking at seven. Primary

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schoolchildren are able to take you to where their older brother

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gathers with their friends to drink and they would admit that they

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would be tempted, yes, to accept the alcohol. Joan McClain is a

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Londonderry school teacher who is deeply concerned about how some

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schoolchildren are drinking at primary and secondary school age.

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It's not uncommon for young people to go to school with alcohol in

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lemonade bottles. That's going on as well. On my way to school

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sometimes I would see young people waiting on the doorstep of an off

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licence maybe at 8am, waiting for it to open. She runs a project for

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P7 pupils to try to stop them falling into early drinking habits.

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Children as young as five have been able to identify for me blue WKD or

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orange. They've been able to use this in a role-play session, which

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would you like blue or orange WKD? This is the at age five. With the

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help of some of Joan's older ex- Educating children and alcohol

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awareness doesn't necessarily stop them drinking. Here is Joby Murphy,

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this time filmed four years ago, taking part in a Belfast City

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Council project about the dangers of abusing alcohol. I seen someone

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the other night and they were lying in a puddle of their own piss.

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body is not well equipped. Here in Donegall Pass, Terry Watson is

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trying to get the message across about alcohol to boys like Luke and

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Sammy, who are both 13 years old. What sort of state do 11 and 12 and

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13-year-olds get themselves in? I've had to phone 999 on a few

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occasions for young people, who have been violently ill. I've been

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young women almost lying in gutters and absolutely legless. That's a

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sad and sorry sight and especially when they are underage. Street by

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Street is a group of local volunteers set up to monitor the

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inner city streets of South Belfast keeping in touch with and an eye on

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young drinkers. Look at all of that beer and the vodka. They come round

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here and drink first, because it's cheaper. One teenager we met

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claimed he started drinking simply because it was the done thing.

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drink mostly every weekend. You feel left out if you don't. Luke

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told us he's been drinking since he was 11 years old. How do you get a

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beer? Mates. Sometimes. What do your parents think about you

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drinking? Told me to tell her if I had a wee beer and tell her about

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it. Instead of lying, so I told her. It's not just beer. There are 11-

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year-olds who are also drinking spirits. When did you have your

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first hangover? 11. I drunk a glass of vodka, so I did. Me and my mate,

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Sammy. That was it. They brought me home, the police. That was it.

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did you feel about that? Sick. it stopped you drinking? What do

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you drink now? WKD. That's it. I just drink at Christmas time with

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my mummy. She lets me have a wee drink with her at Christmas and

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when I'm on holiday with her. about around here? Where do the

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kids go to drink? Sit in the park here. At night-time. DD and his

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friends are older, but have been drinking since around the age of

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ten and 11. They are clearly proud of the drinking exploits they've

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got up to. What is the worst state? Legless. I had to get carried home.

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What age did you start drinking? What about you? 14. We had a bottle

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of gin and didn't take too well to our bodies. He was sick. I couldn't

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walk. I was literally sleeping in this here park, so I was. They had

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to carry me home to my back garden and left me there. Called my mum

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out and she came and took me up to bed. Why are some young people

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drinking so much? The experts largely blame the cheapness and

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availability of alcohol. You can now get a bottle of cider cheaper

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than certain brands of water. Dr George O'Neill says alcohol is a

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legal drug which we treat and buy like a grocery. We have a culture

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now where it's acceptable to drink large quantities and to drink

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excessively and it's fuelled by the fact it's freely available. You can

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dial a taxi and they will deliver Ryan Hilditch drank carryouts for

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years. He turned 22 and said last year he drinking finally spiralled

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out of control. It was nearly seven days a week. A bottle of Frosty

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Jacks and Budweiser and a couple of other cans. Even though he's

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unemployed Ryan says he could still afford to drink because of cheap

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deals at the supermarkets every day. Cheap drink. You can pick it up in

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ASDA. Maybe at the minute it's 20 Carlsberg for �12. Near Christmas

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time it was bottles of whiskey. Karl Williams from the Forum for

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Action Against Substance Abuse is trying to occupy Ryan with

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activities like football to keep his mind off the drink. He says the

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trends among young drinkers are increasingly fuelled by the

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internet, where people can brag and You can go on to a social website

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and see the glamourisation around some of these adventures over the

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weekend and the tales they can tell around their drinking. Certainly,

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this idea of it's almost seen as a badge of honour. I can do this and

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drink this amount. I can do it in this amount of time. Joan McClain

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has been horrified by pictures of girls, though not from her school,

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that have appeared on the internet. I've been told of young girls

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filming themselves going to the toilet and putting it on Facebook.

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They obviously wouldn't do that if they weren't under the influence of

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alcohol. Just a few weeks ago, David Cameron went to a hospital in

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Newcastle upon Tyne to announce new plans to tackle alcohol abuse in

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England. He did so for a reason. Because Newcastle is often referred

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to the party capital of the UK. It's also here that the shots

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culture has reached a point where some pubs and clubs are now selling

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nine measures of vodka for as little at �3.99. Perhaps not

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surprisingly then, in the north- east, every 18 hours someone dies

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as a result of alcohol intake. Bob Senior is the Chief Executive of

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some clubs in the area. He feels Belfast still has a chance to avoid

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the path Newcastle has gone down, where more drinks promotions have

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created a city centre that is off limits to those who only the drink

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sometimes. He said there must be a minimum price for alcohol to hit

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the supermarkets' cheap deals. supermarkets have done a fantastic

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job of diverting attention from the problems they are causing with

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super-cheap drinks. The city centres are populated by younger

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and younger people who are more and more drunk having preloaded at home

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to make the money stretch and clubs that have declined the pricing

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policy to compete. Is it not too easy to blame the supermarkets? Do

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you not have a social responsibility? Anyone selling the

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drug that is alcohol has a social responsibility, but of course the

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defence of anybody accused that would to be say it's still more

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expensive than the supermarket. Nine shots of spirit for �3.99 is

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not irresponsible if the supermarkets are selling it cheap.

:22:59.:23:09.
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The Northern Ireland Retail They say they fund a DrinkAware

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campaign as well as carrying information about alcohol units on

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their products and preventing underage sales. In Belfast, it

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hasn't reached the stage where nightclubs charge �3.99 for nine

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shots, but there are still plenty of deals encouraging people to

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drink large amounts for very little. When Joby Murphy died there were

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public demands for action against the cut-price offers. Now, the

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minister says he will ban these types of promotions later this year.

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We are at a point now where we are due to bring forward regulations to

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ban irresponsible promotions and that will include both on-sales and

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off-sales so the days of buy one get one free, or the days of pay

:24:05.:24:08.

�20 and drink all you can until you fall over, that's something that

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:24:18.:24:23.

would be ruled out by those Stormont is researching the

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possibility of a minimum price per unit of drink. This would mean

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strong drinks like some ciders and spirits would rise in price. But

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average strength wines and beers would stay roughly the same cost.

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The Minister accepts he needs minimum pricing alongside a ban on

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promotions to fully tackle the issue. Undoubtedly, there will be

:24:44.:24:47.

challenges on the way. There will be difficulties on the way, because

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there are vested interests here, who will want to continue

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exploiting vulnerable young people. The first step is to press ahead

:24:55.:24:59.

with what we can do immediately and that is in terms of the

:24:59.:25:07.

irresponsible promotions. How can the Minister be sure his ban on

:25:07.:25:09.

cheap promotions will work? It's clear that the current laws are

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being brazenly disregarded. We found evidence that the drinking

:25:13.:25:17.

laws are being broken as a matter of course. We visited Mynt on

:25:17.:25:23.

Saturday morning. The doorman was totally unperturbed as he explained

:25:23.:25:33.
:25:33.:25:52.

that the police were actually What does the Minister responsible

:25:52.:26:02.
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for licencing have to say when we tell him about this criminality?

:26:02.:26:04.

Well, the responsibility for the operations as regarding the police,

:26:04.:26:08.

that's something that needs to be taken up and I would encourage you

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to take it up with them. You are the minister for licencing and the

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clubs are openly flouting the law. You should be concerned about that.

:26:15.:26:18.

There's a law there. It should be enforced. I have no control over

:26:18.:26:26.

the police. In a statement the They also said venues serving after

:26:26.:26:31.

hours remain a focus for police operations. But while the police

:26:31.:26:35.

claim to have a focus on this issue, it is absolutely clear that the

:26:35.:26:42.

four clubs we visited break the law right under their noses. Once the

:26:42.:26:45.

doorman lets us inside Mynt in the background to the right of the shot,

:26:45.:26:49.

police are talking to staff. While they are there, the bar is closed.

:26:49.:26:59.
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Once they go, the bar opens and the illegal sale of drink resumes. We

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contacted the four nightclubs, Mynt, Kremlin, Rain and Thompsons that we

:27:05.:27:11.

found serving alcohol after hours, but only one responded. In a

:27:11.:27:14.

statement Mynt did not address the fact it was breaching licencing

:27:14.:27:17.

laws, but said it has signed up to the trades voluntary code on drinks

:27:17.:27:26.

promotions. However the politicians, the police or society decide to

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address the issues, back at the SOS bus, volunteer parents are dealing

:27:29.:27:36.

with the fallout of another night's drinking. Just days after Joby

:27:36.:27:39.

Murphy accidently fell into the Lagan, Joe Hyland says another

:27:39.:27:41.

drunk clubber was going to deliberately throw himself into the

:27:41.:27:48.

river. He was contemplating doing something silly. How much of that

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is drink? A lot of it is. Of course it is. He wouldn't do it sober. It

:27:53.:27:59.

wouldn't enter his mind sober. We all make mistakes. Our society

:27:59.:28:05.

tells everybody drink is OK. During filming for this programme, the

:28:05.:28:08.

Beach Club told us it has dropped the Wednesday promotions, following

:28:08.:28:10.

Joby's death and now employs alcohol awareness stewards to

:28:10.:28:18.

specifically identify potential drunkenness. Whatever the Beach

:28:18.:28:25.

Club does now, it is too late for Joby Murphy. Last week, Joe finally

:28:25.:28:31.

Stephen Dempster finds out how in Northern Ireland we are drinking more than ever before and starting younger - and investigates our relationship with alcohol and the social and financial implications.


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