Thursday, 26 September 2013

Our alcohol problem

A couple of weeks ago we were moved to reply to a letter from a Mr. T Broderick in the sports section of Ireland’s Sunday Independent. First of all, here’s the ‘offending’ letter:
Fr. Ted and Fr. Dougal take a stance...
What would Bishop Brennan make of all of this?

“I watched the All Ireland hurling final last weekend and three things have really bothered me since then.
1. Should pundits/commentators be discussing and commenting on gambling during such a game? Michael Duignan got very excited about Liam Sheedy having a great bet for the draw at 14/1.
2. Should Michael Lyster be posing questions regarding players drinking after matches? Was he implying that they could not survive without a drink for another three weeks? Why would he pose such a question?
3. Cyril Farrell's comment about the Clare team "jumping in the Shannon" if they had lost that game. Is hurling that important? Did the Galway minors consider jumping in the Corrib when they got back to Galway after their loss? These words although said in jest are very powerful and could be heard differently by people in difficult situations.
What subliminal messages are said comments sending out to people dealing with gambling or alcohol problems or contemplating suicide? This banter also normalises these behaviours for our teenagers. What are they thinking listening to these comments?
These are serious problems and I know that the above-mentioned commentators did not mean to cause offence but they have a greater responsibility than maybe they realise.
With 1.3 million watching this programme at some stage, surely we should expect a higher standard of broadcasting?
Keep the pub banter for off air in the future.”*

This got our blood up at the time of reading it, so we decided to respond. Our riposte, below, was published the following week:
A pint of 'the black stuff' -- 'sorry, we're out'
Ireland's own

“What a brittle, brainless bunch us Irish ‘commoners’ must be, if the words of Mr. T Broderick are to be taken seriously.
A jovial brief chat by some ‘Sunday Game’
(a programme that covers the Irish sports of hurling and Gaelic football) analysts about a spot of betting and downing a few pints and this means that we’re all going to gamble away our house (those of us that have one that is) down at the bookies while making our way to the nearest hostelry to get inebriated.
Heck, perhaps we should ban the announcement of stock market news on the airwaves in case it encourages us ‘dumb masses’ to get involved in that dirty business too.
A typical Irish attitude, blame somebody else for any ‘problems’ we may have.
The phrase ‘grow a pair’ springs to mind.
In any case, you need to have a long, hard look at yourself if you heed the word of those working with the state broadcaster.”*

No prizes then for guessing where we’re coming from on all this.

For now, we're just going to focus on the alcohol issue. Irish people’s relationship with it has been quite topical in recent days – to be honest it’s something that’s never too far off the national debating agenda here. The reason though why it’s back on the front pages is to do with ‘Arthur’s Day’. To the uninitiated this now annual event (for the time being anyway) was first introduced in 2009 to celebrate 250 years of the alcoholic beverage Guinness, the brainchild of Arthur Guinness, being brewed in Dublin.

Many see it – and we tend to agree – as purely a marketing ploy by Diageo, the owners of Guinness, to promote the consumption of its leading brand. More stringent critics say it gives an easy excuse for people to ‘go on the lash’ where otherwise they may not have bothered; the fact it is always fixed for a Thursday, traditionally a big student night out in Ireland’s big towns and cities, underscores this ‘excuse’ point for many.

However alongside encouraging people to raise a pint glass ‘to Arthur’, the day (or indeed days as it now is) incorporates a number of music events sponsored by the drinks company. So with the once well-celebrated Irish pub in apparent terminal decline, if these free or cost-price music shows entice a few extra people out isn’t that a good thing?

Out for one or two beers...
Our coffee is blocked out by all the bottles in the front
As we wrote about before in more detail in An Irish lament (see, it’s not like Irish people are drinking less with the decline of the pubs; if anything as a nation we’re drinking more than ever. The difference now is that most of it is done at home, away from prying, perhaps judgemental, eyes. Yes, it might be cheaper but it doesn't mean it's any better.

The question the whole Arthur’s Day ‘should we shouldn’t we’ debate brings up is as a country are we not responsible enough and mature enough to have such events, whether you support them or not, without us getting ‘ossified’ (drunk that is)? If you do drink to excess, that’s your issue – don’t be looking for others to blame. Are we meant to ban every occasion we like to celebrate, public or private, just because some people might over-indulge in alcohol?

While the Arthur’s Day experiment may die a quick death (and we won’t shed a tear for it), many other more internationally recognised and celebrated festivals such as St. Patrick’s Day and Christmas won’t be going anywhere soon. Many Irish and a host of other nationalities will drink perhaps a little bit too much in marking these and other such events.

Go ahead we say, just don’t shirk from the personal responsibility you have for your own actions. It’s something we’re slowly trying to learn. Without, that is, blaming the media or some marketing event for any drunken escapades we might get up to.

* Both letters can be found in digital form on The first is here, while our reply is midway down this:

For a previous article on a similar theme of being responsible for our own actions, see Survival of the dumbest


  1. All i Know is that alcohol is dangerous, especially if you are taking it on a regular basis. You have to know how it hurts people who are drinking it.

    1. Like anything, if you abuse it or let it take over your life, then there will be problems. It's about control...

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  3. Being a recovered alcohol addict, I advise anyone who even thinks about drinking, please think about yourself and your family. I have been under counseling with self improvement courses at Alcohol and drugs rehabilitation centre Toronto called Bellwood health services. Now I recovered from alcohol addict and feel so free to stress. I got some courage to rebuild my life.

    1. Good to hear you're doing well Michael. Obviously if drinking is a problem for somebody, the first step is realising that. That has to come from within.

      Continued good luck to you and thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

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