Under age drinking

The Spanish government has announced plans to cut-down on binge drinking among young people. This practice is so widespread that it even has a name in Spain, Botellon. In Palma, the “binge” takes place at the dockside every Friday and Saturday nights. As many as 500 people can gather there, and it has become a social outing with everyone bringing their own bottle. As part of the drive the government is upping the drinking age from 16 to 18. A good idea as long as bar staff and shopkeepers are willing to enforce the law. I read this week a defence of Botellon in one newspaper which suggested that the reason why it had become so successful was that many young people could not afford the expensive bar prices and therefore they had to turn elsewhere. A bottle of booze in a supermarket, in some cases, costs the same as a single drink in some bars. But this is not the point. A heavy drinking culture is slowly slipping into Spain from northern Europe. It is all very well trying to crackdown on Botellon, some bar owners will welcome the move, but what the government should be doing is trying to find out why people in their late teens feel the need to binge drink. Probably when they are at home or with their parents not a drop of alcohol will pass their lips but when they are out on a Saturday night, it is heavy drinking all night long. It is a social problem and the government needs to be more aware and find the reason not just short-term publicity grabbing campaigns. The already overburdened police force have been charged with yet another task. The problem of binge drinking among young people goes much further than dockside parties.

Jason Moore

Irish police free man held in Omagh bomb probe

Irish police said yesterday they had released without charge a man arrested as part of the inquiry into the 1998 Omagh bombing, but were continuing to interrogate a second suspect held in the same probe. The pair, one aged 33 and the other 45, were picked up by police on Wednesday in the Irish counties of Monaghan and Louth, both of which border British-ruled Northern Ireland. “The 33-year-old man was released late last night without charge,” a police spokesman told R euters.

A court order had been obtained allowing the 45-year-old to be quizzed for a further 24 hours, the spokesman added. Police on both sides of the Irish border have questioned scores of people over the Omagh bombing, the bloodiest single act in Northern Ireland's 30-year conflict. Half a dozen arrests have been made in the Republic in recent weeks. Only one person has so far been convicted of involvement in the attack, which killed 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins. No one has yet been charged with murder. The attack was carried out by the Real IRA, a dissident republican group, which detonated a 500-lb (225-kg) car bomb in the Northern Irish market town on a busy Saturday afternoon.