Irish boozing habits will not be changed by restrictive laws

To tackle the problem we need more Gardaí on the streets, not nanny-state legistlation, writes Peadar Donnelly

 To tackle the problem we need more Gardaí on the streets, not nanny-state legistlation, writes Peadar Donnelly


The Irish are known all over the world for their drinking culture. We are seen as “those crazy Irish”, a fun-loving bunch who can’t get enough of the craic. Alternatively, we have been seen as “those drunken Irish”, a nation sodden in vodka and cheap beer. I noticed this in Australia, a place where the Hibernians who migrate each summer are either loved or hated.

We spent our first week in Melbourne, where we frequented a local waterhole called the “Rosstown”. While I won’t say the place went out of business when we departed for Sydney, it’s safe to say that its profits spiked during our week’s stay. It might even be possible that it made more money in that week than its total income since the place opened.

Whist discussing the Irish attitude to alcohol, a German friend who had spent a year in Ireland commented that she had been amazed by how much boozing went on in her college. I suggested that seven the strait-laced Germans are fond of their alcohol. They have a whole festival in October dedicated to beer where they get hammered for three whole weeks. I told her that Europeans probably drink just as much as we do. “Nein,” she replied, “der stereotypes are true.” And that’s the thing. She is right. When it comes to drinking, the Irish sure as hell don’t hold back. Even during Oktoberfest your average Kraut only drinks three pints in an afternoon and he’s done. An Irish guy would be only warming up at that stage.

You see the same in other countries. The Frenchmen are fond of their wine, but they drink while eating. The Irishman eats after a night of drinking, seeing the food as a “soakage” used to prevent the dreaded hangover. Pierre stays healthy while Paddy succumbs to liver failure.

The English man… gets plastered. But they probably picked it up from us.

The Irish are pissed, and proud. We would drink European lightweights right under the table. It is a national habit, and is somewhat frowned upon by the rest of the World. It’s like picking your nose in front of all the other countries, a guilty little indulgence when you hope that no one else is looking. But they always are.

People in other nations drink too, you say. That’s true, but they don’t do it nearly as much as we do. Or as often. Any occasion, any wedding, funeral, and its straight off to Corcoran’s for refuelling. Any excuse will do.

It’s a mindset, a mentality. Irish teenagers are still among the worst bingers in Europe. It has survived generation after generation. And something with that much force and survivability behind it isn’t going to stop anytime soon. Michael McDowell fancied trying himself against this beast, only to stop when his Cafe-Bar plan crashed and burned. A recent development in the crackdown on the monumental Irish binge is not allowing alcohol to be sold in off-licenses after ten at night.

What’s that going to change? I can’t enjoy a quiet drink at home in order to prevent a few teeny-boppers from getting their naggins. How many intoxicated drivers will that pull off our roads? How many teenage girls won’t get pregnant at some crazy house party?

Punishing the rest of us isn’t going to solve anything. When all is said and done, Ireland has a problem that needs to be tackled intelligently. We need a smart-bomb, something sharp and surgical, not a nuke that will take out all the rest of us along with it.

And in my honest opinion, our drink laws are fine the way they are. What we need is more manpower. Numbers is our answer and more of them.

A greater Gardaí presence on our roads is needed and a permanent one too, not a glorified bank-holiday crack-down that will last until the Gardaí get lazy again. We need this presence nation-wide, not just in the cities but in towns and villages too, often the areas worst affected by vandalism and crime.

It’s very simple. The more Gardaí on the streets, the less likely you are to get away with being drunk and disorderly. Easy, mathematical logic. You don’t need a super genius theoretical physicist to tell you that, who’s probably in no state to do so anyway, being as he is face down on the carpet in Doyles. Until then, the Irish will drink until their livers turn to naan-bread.