Alcohol “continues to hold a tight grip on our national character”, an Irish bishop has said.
Auxiliary Bishop Eamonn Walsh of Dublin made the remark as Ireland considers a bill that would restrict the sale and advertising of alcohol.
In a letter to the Irish Times he expressed “deep concern” that the bill could be weakened because of lobbying from drinks companies.
The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, first proposed two years ago, seeks to ban drinks companies’ sponsorship of sports events, limit advertising and introduce minimum pricing.
Bishop Walsh, vice-chair of the Irish bishops’ drugs initiative, has long been a vigorous supporter of the bill. The new Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, has made it a priority, saying “we need to face up to [the country’s alcohol problem] as a society”.
In his letter Bishop Walsh said: “The human devastation caused by alcohol has been a blight on our society for countless years, and one that the Catholic Church has challenged for generations.” He noted that a Capuchin priest, Fr Theobald Mathew, had led the 19th century temperance movement.
The bishop said that debate on the bill in the Dáil had been postponed until the autumn. This, he said, was another sign of the “powerful influence” of the alcohol industry, which seeks to “disempower those working to decouple Ireland’s deep and troubled relationship with alcohol”.
The bishop said that every night 1,500 beds in Irish acute hospitals were occupied as a result of alcohol-related illnesses. The bishops’ initiative works in more than 250 parishes through 1,000 volunteers to address alcohol and drug misuse.
Durham adds 3,000 new Catholic books to stock
Only a fraction of the Catholic National Library collection given to Durham University two years ago has been processed and made available to readers, a university official has said.
Jon Purcell, the university librarian who retired this month, said 3,000 books had been added to the stock so far. The collection, regarded as of national importance, consisted of 55,000 books, half of which the university already held in some form.
Mr Purcell said the work had been “slower than we would have wished”. He explained that the university had not managed to attract funding for the project and that the condition of the books meant “many have to be sanitised to ensure that they are free of mould” – “a time-consuming activity”, he said, which “can only take place out of doors and in dry conditions”.
The collection, founded in 1912, was amassed by an American convert, William Reed-Lewis, who persuaded a parish priest in Bexhill-on-Sea to let him leave books on the church porch for people to borrow free of charge. Last based at St Michael’s Abbey, Farnborough, it had long faced uncertainty over its future before Durham University stepped in to save it.
Sister ‘helped me return to faith’
A footballer turned Dominican priest has said his sister was influential in his return to the faith.
Fr Philip Mulryne, who played for Manchester United, told True Light Catholic Media that his sister would send him books about the faith. He started to read them in his late 20s, when he began to sense an “emptiness” about his lifestyle.