Friends of teenager Joby Murphy, who tragically lost his life in January of this year after falling into the river Lagan after a night drinking, gathered at city hall this week to meet councillors ahead of a series of campaigns inspired by the young man’s life.
The group, all members of the NI Youth Forum, have rallied together to lobby for a number of initiatives that they hope will ensure other young people are aware of the perils of irresponsible drinking and that others can be spared the grief of losing a close friend.
High on their list of goals is an advertising campaign showing the dangers of bad attitudes toward drinking similar to other government funded campaigns against passive smoking, dangerous driving etc. Leader of the group Anto Morrisey said “Some young people just aren’t aware of their own limits. The phrase ‘drink responsibly’ can’t just be thrown in at the end of an advert, it needs to be explained and taken seriously”.
The group is also planning to meet with executive ministers to discuss a programme of peer education in schools in an attempt to make the issue more relatable for students. Honorary secretary of NIYF and friend of Joby, Martin McAuley said
This is primarily an issue of safety and education. We all enjoy a drink but it’s finding the balance between having a good time and being able to get home safely at the end of a night that’s key”
It can be awkward when a teacher tries to tell you these things, hearing it from another young person and being able to ask questions makes it much more real.
In the long term, the working group plans to lobby the assembly for changes to licensing laws which can encourage an unhealthy attitude toward alcohol consumption. Critical of elements of the current system, group members said,
It creates an unhealthy culture of drinking as much as you can as quickly as possible before kicking out time. The last order bell is like setting the dogs loose from the traps as people race to the bar for a handful of shots
In describing their motivation for the campaign, McAuley said
Joby campaigned for change throughout his life. It’s only fitting that in remembering him, we pick up the gauntlet that he threw down to us all to make things better for those around us.