The 351 alcohol-related deaths recorded in Northern Ireland last year could be 10 times higher, according to coroner Joe McCrisken.
This claim is made in Tuesday’s episode of UTV’s current affairs programme Up Close, which investigates a dramatic increase in alcohol abuse.
Entitled Last Orders and presented by reporter Sarah Clarke, it examines the dark side to Northern Ireland’s drinking culture.
She speaks to families and survivors left devastated by alcohol abuse and asks health experts, the police and charities what can be done to turn the dangerous tide.
Alex Best, ex-wife of footballer George Best, talks about living with the star, who battled alcohol addiction for most of his adult life.
Clarke also speaks to GAA player Domhnall Nugent, who reveals that his battle with drug and alcohol addiction led to him attending a rehab facility in Newry in 2019. Only six of the 12 men in his group are still alive.
The PSNI also outlines how it deals with alcohol-related crime and the alarming number of young people involved in under-age drinking.
Community worker Stephen Hughes said: “We have a 15-year-old with liver failure from drinking a bottle of vodka a day.”
In a moving interview, Peter Dolan, father of student Enda Dolan, who was killed by a drunk driver, describes how the events unfolded for his family on the night his son was knocked down as he made his way to his halls of residence at Queen’s University. He describes the “very horrible image”of Enda lying on a trolley in a small room in the hospital.
Peter tells of how the driver, David Lee Stewart, was three-and-a-half times the legal limit and how he and his passenger failed to call an ambulance after they had knocked Enda down.
He said: “They threw Enda on the side of the road like a bag of rubbish.”
Peter successfully campaigned for a longer sentence when Stewart was convicted, but despite it being extended, he was caught drink-driving again after his release.
UTV’s Up Close — Last Orders airs on Tuesday at 10.45pm