Monday, 14 March 2011

Calling time on drunken St. Patrick's Day?

 'It is March 18th, the day after the day before.  Ireland is suffering from a giant hangover. Callers to radio shows throughout the day describe how the Irish have made a show of themselves in front of the whole world, and newsreaders are suggesting that the level of disgraceful drunkenness was unprecedented. Things have never been so bad'.   So said Three Monkeys in their 2005 blog.   Last year Fox news reported 'Cars torched, firefighters attacked, police bombarded and neighbors terrified: It was another fine St. Patrick's Day in Ireland, where inebriated mobs annually turn districts of Dublin and Belfast into a nightmare.  Police had arrested 346 suspected drunk drivers and 72 for dangerous driving, while eight people died in crashes.'  


So will 2011 be different?  Not in Illinois apparently, where the state is already planning to spend an estimated $800,000 dollars to fund the extra police patrols to target St. Patrick’s Day drunk driver follies.  At home Fionnuala Sheehan of Drinkaware.ie, the drinks industry's own 'sensible drinking' mouthpiece, confirms that “Public drunkenness and excessive drinking had been synonymous with St Patrick’s Day celebrations", but hopes that people will be "taking responsibility for their drinking and challenging anti-social behaviour " in 2011.  This is unlikely if Drinkaware's own advice to the Irish Times is any indication. People should, they say, 'imbibe on St Patrick’s Day' by starting the day 'with a decent meal and eat between drinks, avoid large rounds, pace themselves and not drive the morning after'.  Presumably that way they can drink as much as last year but get a good feed into the bargain.  The Times also tells us that 'publicans and off-licences have been told to act responsibly when it comes to selling alcohol to young revellers'.  Is that an improvement on acting irresponsibly when selling them drink? Somehow the industry can't quite bring itself to say sell less and drink less, can it?.  My mother always warned me about the dangers of self-regulation. 

 So we clearly have an image problem, or rather our image is a problem.  Brian Cowen's  singing fame aside,  surely the world is looking to Ireland for signs that it is having a  good hard sober look at itself in the mirror.  A big effort is needed to turn round an economy that still has the potential to destabilise an already rocky Europe.  If we want to date the international community again,  they will want to see a little more commitment and a fellow who looks like he can hold a job, not a thumbs up from a leery reveller.  Once we showed the world that we could party like there was no tomorrow.  Sadly, tomorrow has arrived and the place looks pretty bad in the daylight.


Positive plans for celebrating are possible though.  In Derry DIVERT, the Dove House-based alcohol awareness organisation, have linked with local indie label Practice Makes Perfect for a major alcohol free music event in Derry’s Nerve Centre on St Patrick’s Eve.   'A number of young service users within Divert will help organise the event and will be present with staff on the night to look after information stalls, distribute ‘stay safe’ goodies and give away spot prizes in a bid to raise  awareness of the project'. Read more in the Derry Journal.  Similar plans are under-way in Chicago where an alcohol free Patrick's day celebration is a regular fixture.  Are there any similar events planned in the Republic itself?  We have yet to see.  At least the Leinster House bar will be quiet while Minsters are working hard to rebuild those broken bridges abroad. 

Read:  http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,509662,00.html#ixzz1GayYrpcd Derry Journal http://bit.ly/eo9vTN Chicago citynews http://aol.it/f24BQi   Illinois drunk driving preps bhttp://bit.ly/hpucef  Sky news Irish drunkenness  http://fxn.ws/i9IrWE Three monkeys blog history of St Patrick's Day drinking.  http://bit.ly/Ke5at Irish Times Caution Urged http://bit.ly/hnnng7

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