Bishop McAreavey awards certificates to Peer Leaders involved in education awareness regarding alcohol and drugs

26 Apr 2010

26 April 2010

Bishop McAreavey awards certificates to Peer Leaders involved in education awareness regarding alcohol and drugs

Bishop John McAreavey, Bishop of Dromore, will present eighteen young adults with certificates this evening in Our Lady’s College Newry, Co Down, at 7.30pm.  Please see remarks by Bishop McAreavey below.

The students of Newry based St Colman’s College and Our Lady’s College have taken part in advanced training as peer leaders in drug education. The students have been trained in the “Peer 4 Peer Programme” which enables students to educate their younger peers on the subject of alcohol and other drugs.

The students participated in the eight session training recently in Dromantine. The training included advanced listening skills, presentation skills, good practice in drug education as well as full factual knowledge and information on alcohol and drugs use/misuse.

This is the first time this programme has been delivered in Northern Ireland. The programme was produced by the Irish Bishops’ Drugs Initiative in line with DEWF (Quality Standards in Drug Education).  The IBDI has delivered this programme in many other parts of Ireland.  The IBDI promotes working in partnership with other service providers in the area of drug prevention.

The Irish Bishops’ Drugs Initiative works with over one hundred and thirty parishes in the country in order to mobilise volunteers and hosts events raising awareness about drug and alcohol misuse.  The initiative can be contacted at [email protected]  or look at our web page at

Notes for Editors

  • As one student stated: “ I now have a new confidence… knowledge not just to be able to talk about drugs but to stand in front of my friends and to teach many new skills to help them refuse tobacco, alcohol and other drugs”
  • Another student says of the course: “I now understand the risks and factors involved in drug use……..along with many ways to help prevent alcohol / drug misuse it in my community”.

Remarks by Bishop John McAreavey at the award ceremony for the pilot project involving pupils of Our Lady’s Grammar School and St Colman’s College (Newry) under the aegis of the Irish Bishops’ Drugs Initiative (IBDI)

History of Irish Bishops’ Drugs Initiative

The Irish Bishops’ Drugs Initiative was formed in 1997 as a response to the growing problem of substance misuse in Ireland. Over this time the IBDI has produced a number of publications and coordinated a national network. In 2006, the IBDI with the support of the National Drug Strategy set up our Parish Mobilisation Initiative.

The Irish Bishops’ Drugs Initiative seeks to enable parishes to facilitate a pastoral response in partnership with other service providers to respond to the primary and secondary prevention of drug / alcohol harms in parish communities.

The success of those involved in the pilot project that we are celebrating this evening was based on – quite apart from the wonderful personalities and Christian motivation of those involved – the use of parish and diocesan structures to access the wider communities.  The Church is glad offer its infrastructure so as to facilitate this important access in to support the common good of our local communities.

Working in Partnership

Parish and diocesan structures are ideally placed to gauge and respond to local shortcomings and needs. Parish communities, in partnership with voluntary, community and statutory agencies, can work in partnership to identify and help prevent or address issues pertinent to substance misuse. In this pilot project the IBDI availed of the network of two post-primary Catholic schools, Our Lady’s Grammar School and St Colman’s College, Newry.

IBDI in our parishes

Following the successes of 10 pilot projects throughout the country, the IBDI has now expanded to include over 130 other parishes throughout the country. The work of the IBDI falls under 4 tiers:

  1. To mobilise and enable local parish communities to respond to prevention of alcohol / drug problems at local level using pastoral responses
  2. To work regionally and nationally to raise awareness of the affects of alcohol and drug misuse on individuals, families and communities
  3. To complement our educational system in delivery training in Peer Leadership to Schools in an out of school setting.
  4. To facilitate our alcohol / drug education and life skills programme with students of Sacrament of Confirmation children.

Why Peer Education?

The idea of peer education is that young people are highly influenced by their peers and that information coming from “like individuals” will be valued more highly than information from adults or individuals not seen as part of one’s peer group.

Benefits of Peer Education

  • Peer education is defined as “a most effective and sustainable communication that facilitates change in a particular group behaviour”;
  • Most popular use of peer education has been noticed/documented in public health system.

Qualities of Peer Leaders in Ministries

  1. Honesty, integrity, and responsibility are important qualities in a Peer leader.
  2. Effective leaders are also inspirational, caring, hardworking, self-aware, confident, adaptable, and service-oriented.
  3. They also have the ability to communicate well.
  4. They appreciate those who are under their leadership.
  5. They in many ways share Gospel values

Peer4Peer (Training for Trainers)

This programme sets out to harness an integrated pastoral approach to working with young people. It is provided in communities for training peer leaders in drug education, who will then use their skills acquired to train younger peers on the subject of alcohol and other drugs.


  1. To act as a guide and a resource for persons working with young people of mixed abilities in or out side of school setting.
  2. To provide a practical approach to working with young people on the subject of alcohol and drugs.


  1. To provide relevant up-to-date information on drugs, their influence and effects
  2. To provide practical integrative activities to be used in group work
  3. To provide a holistic and pastoral approach to education and prevention of substance use
  4. To explore substance use issues with the aid of visual representations.
  5. To integrate activities aimed at enhancing self esteem and developing healthy life skills such as communication, listening and decision making
  6. Young people will acquire new leadership skills, which can be a valuable asset when used in the community.


I wish to thank John Taaffe who worked with the pupils and staff of Our Lady’s and St Colman’s. I hope that this work is a help to John in developing similar project models across the country. I wish John every success with this important work. I also want to thank Anita Ryan, director of Youth Ministry in the diocese of Dromore, for facilitating this project.


Further information:

Martin Long, Director of Communications 086 172 7678