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Drink And Drugs Prove To Be Challenge For All.
If you were to sit down with any parent or community activist and ask them what were the key concerns affecting their communities this year, I am sure that in a list of the top three you would find road safety/accidents and alcohol and drugs misuse. Unfortunately for many of the young people in Ireland all of these issues are sadly interlinked and can have devastating consequences on local communities. How many times have we picked up a newspaper or switched on a radio news bulletin to discover that the top story is of some tragic road accident resulting in the death of one or more bright and promising young people.
It is reassuring to see the The GAA is more than willing to play its part in raising these issues among its members and considering the prominent role the association plays in Irish society that can only have a positive impact. Figures from around the country show clearly that the majority of fatal accidents on our roads involve young drivers. Within GAA clubs there is a captive audience for this road safety message and although it would be very difficult to quantify the effect of campaigns such as these, if it saves only one life or makes one young driver more safety conscious then it should be considered a success and therefore well worth doing.
The drugs and alcohol issues are even more alarming but their impact even more difficult to measure. The numbers of our young people who regularly indulge in consumption of banned or illegal substances would surprise most but would stun the more traditional of our GAA members. However it would be naive in the extreme for The GAA or anyone else to think that drink and drugs are problems only for clubs in the big towns or areas where social depravation is an issue. This is a nationwide problem but one whose ramifications are deeply felt locally. County Boards and clubs thankfully have become much more proactive in highlighting these problems and the threat posed by them. These are modern day scourges and should be seen as such and our club and county officers must continue to promote the message that recreational drugs have no place in the lives of people participating in recreation.
In small communities some people may well find it very difficult to approach these topics but there is plenty of professional advice available and agencies out there only too willing to speak to a committee or to a group of young people about these subjects. As with the road safety issue if it affects only one life in a positive way it has been well worth doing.
Clearly the role of any GAA club within its communities goes far beyond what was envisaged when the association first began. In fact the past twenty or so years have seen the sort of change and challenge that most people could never have envisaged. It cannot be easy for club officers to keep pace with these changes but such is the nature of the GAA and the people who make it work that they do and, as has happened so often before, the greater the challenge the better they respond.