Irish people drank more alcohol last year compared to the year before, with spirits and cider seeing the biggest jumps in consumption, new figures have shown.
According to provisional figures released by the Revenue Commissioners, the average Irish person aged over 15 consumed 11.46 litres of alcohol in 2016 - an increase of almost 5% when compared with 2015 (10.93 litres).
All categories of alcohol recorded an increase in consumption, with the highest increase seen in spirits (+8.9%), followed by cider (+8.5%), wine (+6.2%) and beer (+3.7%).
While the figure of 11.46 litres is below the peak consumption recorded in 2001 (14.3 litres), in 1960, it was just 4.9 litres. This huge increase in recent decades has been blamed on alcohol becoming much more affordable and more widely available.
Commenting on the figures, Conor Cullen of Alcohol Action Ireland (AAI) said that they reflect the fact that Irish people ‘continue to consume high levels of alcohol and as a result, we continue to experience unacceptably high levels of alcohol harm'.
He noted that high levels of consumption here are made even worse by unhealthy drinking patterns, particularly binge drinking, which is relatively common.
"This harmful drinking has a huge impact on our nation's physical and mental health, causing the loss of three lives due to alcohol every day. However the damage extends far beyond those individuals doing the harmful drinking and is contributing to serious problems in many areas of life in Ireland, including child welfare, road safety and crime.
"It is also placing an unsustainable burden on our health service, due to large number of serious alcohol-related illnesses and injuries," Mr Cullen commented.
He insisted that reducing consumption is the key to reducing alcohol-related harm and he called on the Government to implement the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill as soon as possible.
This Bill includes measures such as health warnings on alcohol products, a provision that mixed retail outlets such as supermarkets cannot display alcohol products like ‘every day' products such as bread and milk, and strict restrictions on alcohol price promotions.
"It is beyond time that the Government acted to prioritise the health and wellbeing of its citizens over the objections of vested interests," Mr Cullen said.