Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Bushing Lushing with the HSE

If the current wretched weather has a benefit, then at least it’s keeping the nation’s young people indoors and not out al fresco drinking, which would be their recreation of choice. The rain is certainly doing a better job of keeping them off the sauce than the HSE’s current campaign is likely to do.

You’ve probably seen the ad on billboards around the country. An Spailpín has spotted it on Batchelor’s Walk in Dublin, above the car park in Sandycove and on the final billboard as you’re leaving Longford, heading east. What An Spailpín can’t figure out is what exactly that image is meant to do.

The guess is that it’s to discourage young people sitting on walls, drinking. How exactly it’s going to do that is harder to guess, because that image, especially in its five foot by ten foot incarnation, is up there with Édouard Manet’s déjeuner sur l'herbe as a portrait of bliss naturel. The perfect depiction of a perfect summer’s evening of conviviality and friendship.

Look at the thing – isn’t it gorgeous? Wouldn’t you feel like popping down to Centra yourself for a six-pack and hopping up on the wall along with them? Have you registered how sophisticated the girls are? This isn’t some bunch of nyuks here – these are the cool kids at school, the Fonzes, the Buffys, the Blair Waldorfs.

An Spailpín doesn’t have the figures for how much the campaign cost, and is too stricken in years to wait for a answer through the freedom of information process, but it’s a reasonable guess that the HSE would have blown between half and one million Euro on this ad campaign. And it’s reasonable to ask what exactly they wanted to get for all that money.

Did they want an ad campaign that warns the comfortable middle classes of south Dublin – themselves, in other words – that their offspring may enjoy an alcoholic beverage of a summer’s evening, or do they want to protect vulnerable children from making a very bad lifestyle decision, one which may cost them the rest of their lives?

The sickening thing is, of course, that one single ad could have taken care of both their own worries over Sodhrcha or Uirlis bushing lushing in Herbert Park and the actual children at risk – all you need is a still from the movie The Snapper of Sharon up on the bonnet of a car getting knocked up by Georgie Burgess while Sharon is comatose with drink. You then splash a head across this that reads: “Not alright, Sharon,” and put the contact details about who to talk to at the bottom.

This is a time when the money spent on these ads could be spent on not closing down wards in Crumlin Children’s Hospital. This is serious. Lives are at stake. This sort of stupidity is not good enough.

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