Sen Aodhan O Riordain addresses the gathering watched by hurler Niall O'Meara and Michael Egan of Living Links
Multinational corporations have been accused of sexualising young people, especially girls, in order to make money out of them.
“The pressure on young people, especially young girls of 11 or 12 years of age, is frightening because of commercial interests.
He said this was being done, especially with young girls, because they could target them with having to have items such as certain make-up.
"The pressure is on the corporations to make money,” he said.
“We have to protect childhood,” Sen O Riordan said.
The meeting organised by Aisling Horrigan, Siobhan Horrigan and Virginia O'Dowd aimed to highlight mental health issues and the organisations that are there to help.
The former Equality Minister pointed out that a lot of people with mental health issues drift into drug or drink addiction because of self-medication, and said we needed to take them out of the criminal justice system and treat addiction as a health issue.
“We have decided that addiction can be solved if you arrest someone and bring them before a judge. Sick people don't belong in court. You can get them clean but you still have to deal with the problem that brought addiction,” he said.
Pointing to the example of Portugal, Sen O Riordain said that addiction there was dealt with through the health system “because it is a health problem”.
Sen O'Riordain said that families were less likely to talk of a family member's addiction because of the stigma attached to addiction.
“There is addiction in every single family. We are lying to each other if we don't admit to it,” he said.
“We have the third highest overdose problem in Europe,” he revealed.
Sen O'Riordain reminded people that alcohol was a drug and there were two fatal alcohol overdose deaths a week in Ireland.
He said you never saw anybody put a bad picture up on social media or on their phone.
This point was taken up by Sen O Riordain, who said: “Things used to be written on the toilet wall, but the phone follows you home.”
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