Underage drinking concerns

Underage drinking concerns

12 February 2020

A LOCAL teacher is urging politicians to address the issue of underage drinking.

The appeal by Carney Cumper — vice-principal at Killyleagh Integrated Primary School — comes after a litany of disturbing anti-social behaviour incidents across the district recently.

Young people, some reported to be high on alcohol and drugs, are being blamed for trouble in Downpatrick, Castlewellan, Killyleagh and Saintfield.

Mrs Cumper, who is a past president of the Ulster Teachers’ Union, said while police have vowed to crackdown on underage drinkers, local politicians must also address the issue.

She said that over the past 20 years, teachers have become increasingly aware that some pupils are in school suffering from hangovers, with statistics to back this up.

“Only this month we have seen police in Northern Ireland vow to crack down on underage drinking after seizing a stash of alcohol from young people,” said the vice-principal.

“The proportion of young people who drink alcohol and report having ever been drunk is around 45% according to Drink Aware, while one in three 11 to16 year olds said they’d had a drink in the previous week.”

Mrs Cumper also revealed that at one stage, police across Northern Ireland said they were confiscating bottles and cans of alcohol from children at a rate of one nearly every hour.

She said that the PSNI also confirmed that alcohol was seized from minors more than 7,500 times in the past five years, which equates to a total of 37,000 bottles and cans.

Mrs Cumper continued: “In one case, a 10-year-old boy had 30 ciders confiscated by police.

“If that is what’s confiscated you can only imagine what’s not and what underage young people are managing to put away.”

Mrs Cumper said what teachers see on a Monday morning – if pupils affected even manage to make it to school – are the results of this binge drinking.

She added: “It is not hard for teachers to spot children who are drinking or are hungover. While we give advice to young people already, tackling under-age drinking needs to be a joint affair with parents and the wider community. 

“Young people need to see, from parents and other responsible adults, what sensible drinking habits are.”