On behalf of the Irish Bishops Conference, the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, today launched the pastoral letter ‘Alcohol The Challenge of Moderation’ to coincide with Temperance Sunday 2007 (18 Feb). The launch took place at the Fr Mathew statue on Dublins OConnell St.

Click on link to download Alcohol_challenge_of_moderation

Launch

At the launch, Bishop Eamonn Walsh, the vice chair of the bishops alcohol and drugs initiative, said: Father Mathew addressed the excessive consumption of alcohol in the Ireland of 1850s. Today Ireland is a very different place, yet once again we have a destructive relationship with alcohol. What is our response? Do we just shrug helplessly, leave it to others to do, or do we assume responsibility ourselves? Are we going to let the slide continue, and then in time lament by perhaps quoting the late John Healy, No one shouted stop? Moderation is a responsible approach to consuming alcohol. Some may choose abstinence which is equally laudable.

However if we look at international research on alcohol consumption, Irish societys use of alcohol is nothing short of a national tragedy. Ireland tops two recent international league tables which measure, (i) the level of binge drinking amongst those under the age of 20, and, separately, (ii) in terms of alcohol consumption for those aged 15 and above*.Bishop Walsh said: This Pastoral Letter is an attempt to initiate a debate that will enable us all to gradually change unhealthy attitudes towards alcohol. Also incorporated in the pastoral are some practical suggestions, such as: to reduce ones consumption of alcohol by one third and assess the difference this makes after three months, and, to initiate a discussion amongst friends and at home about our attitude to and use of alcohol.

To encourage debate at public policy level, the pastoral letter will be sent to public representatives north and south, the National Youth Council, sporting bodies, chaplaincies, unions, public health authorities and interest groups in this area.For September the Bishops Conference intends to develop a DVD, based on the pastoral, for use by schools and colleges. This pastoral is also available In Irish and Polish.The Pastoral concludes with an invitation to forward suggestions to the Irish Bishops Drugs & Alcohol Initiative ibdi@eircom.netThis e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or in writing to the Columba Centre, Maynooth, as to how moderation can be promoted at local parish level.

Useful Sites

www.fathermathew.ie

www.pioneertotal.ie Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart

Notes

*WHO Global Status Report on Alcohol 2004 and OECD Health Data 2006.

Fr Matthew

Fr Theobald Mathew (1790-1856) was a Cork-born Capuchin Friar who led a great temperance movement from 1839-1856. His anti-drink campaign is considered to have been a great social revolution that saw the establishment of Temperance Societies in every parish in the country. At its peak between 1838-1845, it was estimated that there were 3-4 million abstaining from drink in Ireland. This high number was aided by the fact that Fr Mathew appealed to every class and rank in society. In 1843, Fr Mathew went to England and Scotland where he had further success, and later spent over two years in the US where he gave the pledge in over 300 towns. With the words Here goes in the name of God he signed the Cork Total Abstinence Society on 10 April 1838, and his campaign began.

He became President of the Cork Total Abstinence Society and after just ten months over 6000 had taken the pledge: I promise to abstain from all intoxicating drinks, except used medically and by order of a medical man, and to discountenance the cause and practice of intemperance. In January a theatrical production of the life of Fr Mathew, supported by the Cork Opera House, was staged in the Half Moon Theatre in Cork.
Father Theobald Mathew statue in OConnell Street, Dublin
The foundation stone was laid in 1890, the centenary of his birth. The sculptor was Mary Redmond (1863-1930) and this was an unusual and high-profile commission for a woman at the time. Her model was an ex-footman from St Joseph’s Night Refuge who had fallen on hard times; ironically she had to dismiss him as he was under the influence of drink and replace him with another model. The statue was unveiled in February 1893. As was customary in the 19th century, the Fr Mathew Statue was paid for by public subscription, which was organized by a voluntary committee. The topmost stone of the base for the statue was laid in 1890 by Edward Kennedy, Lord Mayor of Dublin, to mark the centenary of Fr Mathew’s birth. The statue was unveiled on 8 February 1893 by James Shanks, Lord Mayor of Dublin.