When drink is in, sense is out.

“Inside or outside” the barmaid barked in her soft lilting Cork accent. The befuddled customer unsure at the consequences of choosing either of these options instead resorted to a deer in the headlights reaction. “Outside it is so” was the response from the barmaid, her patience withered away as Galway lurched towards the end of another festival season and her mind was focused on her yet unfinished thesis.

It has since been completed and celebrated in that inimitable Irish style of several days of drinking until the world outside is a place to be both feared and loathed.

Drink and Ireland’s relationship to it, is a hot topic at any time; just listen to Lifeline and Galway is a buzz at the minute.

I first heard it in the pub one night; it started out as a whisper met with incredulous reactions such as. ‘Feck off’ and ‘Ah they can’t do that’. Galway has a new superintendent, yes folks there’s a new sheriff in town and she (“Wouldn’t you know it’s a woman” I heard a beery sage impart at the bar) has the intention of enforcing the existing licensing laws. I will give you a moment to consider this outrageous affront to the drinkers of Galway.

This has caused such a commotion that a poorly written petition has been slung together by a pickled activist citing the poor put-upon publicans and club owners as people we should have sympathy for.

We are known and even celebrated as a nation of drinkers. We get this where ever we go and no doubt there are many of us who revel in living up to this stereotype when overseas. The year out in Australia as a year of debauchery had become a rite of passage before the economic collapse. Should we look across to the continent for a better way of dealing with our drinking culture? France has long been held up as having a responsible attitude to alcohol but anecdotal evidence from friends, – and journalists – who have recently visited there, has seen a rise in the binge drinking culture which blights Britain and Ireland.

In Sweden off licenses are state controlled, is that the road we need to go down? In Ireland the issue is so deep-rooted in our culture that a mass moment of introspection is required. I don’t profess to have any answers but we have got a lot more going for us than our ability to consume alcohol.

Drink is something that has permeated every aspect of Irish culture. It has been the pub that has long been the epicentre of Irish social life. It is where sporting teams go to celebrate and commiserate. It is the first port of call when lives enter, leave or join together in this world. The very image of a pint of the black stuff is an iconic brand, which immediately associated with this country. Even though Porter is an English invention.

It has for many years sponsored our national games and there are countless apologists when our national leaders are being photographed and recorded in inebriated states. Darren Clarke downs a pint cheered on by the crowd after winning the Ryder Cup whereas Colm Cooper cracks a can of cider on his way up pick up the Sam Maguire. These events happened within weeks of each other and resulted in a hilarious exercise in hypocrisy as doctors lined up to slam Colm Cooper conveniently ignoring Clarke’s indiscretion. This may have something to do with amount of doctor’s cars found in golf club car parks.

I found myself in a heated drink fuelled discussion with the aforementioned barmaid and a fellow Hubris administrator during the Volvo Ocean Race festival here in Galway. I took the side of drink in this argument purely because no one else was and it is in my nature to be contrary and found it a pretty difficult position to defend. It is such a destructive influence on every level of society, one would have to question if this substance had been only just invented would it be legalized. Is there any accounting for our attitude to alcohol or even hope for it changing in the future? Is this a changing in the attitude of the city authorities or merely a PR exercise in anticipation of the return to Galway of its student population? I would imagine it is the latter and that all of this closing time clamp down will blow over in a matter of a few weeks.

What could be done to address this issue? Certainly the banning of sports sponsorship by alcohol companies and pubs would be a step in the right direction. Breaking up the lobbying influence of the Vinters Association, who famously scuppered the ‘Cafe Culture’ legislation a few years ago, would be another positive step. Alternatives to the alcohol dominated pub as a place to celebrate – which the cafe culture legislation may have produced had it got off the ground – is a must. Many will say it is up to the individual to make the changes to their own life but strong leadership from the very top is essential.

I think that all pubs should close at 10pm on the dot whereupon a klaxon would sound 4 times. At 10:15 the klaxon would sound 3 times, at 10:30 it would sound twice and then at 10:45 it would sound just once. If anyone were found wandering the streets from 11pm onwards they would be spirited away to a re-education camp run by Young Fine Gael and The Youth Defence for 2 weeks.

I have to declare a conflict of interest as this proposed change to the law would mean I wouldn’t have to put up with drunken arses outside my window all hours of the night.


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About finishedatlast

All round good egg, strong in the tackle with a fetching line in facial hair

15 responses to “When drink is in, sense is out.”

  1. petertferguson says :

    I think the problem with drink is that people seem to be alleviated of responsibility if their stupid/criminal actions are undertaken during a drunken state. How many times do you read in the local paper about somebody up in the courts with 57 convictions is back on front of Ms Mary Fahy. This chap’s lawyer quotes the well-overused excuse that the poor lad has drink and drug issues and was under the influence at the time. Then Judge Fahy grants the customary leniency, a suspended sentence and a 58th chance.

    Alcohol isn’t a drug which completely alters a person’s personality. It just loosens the inhibitors, so if someone is being a dick while drunk, it means he is a dick in general and drink is just allowing his true nature out. I know plenty of people who get arseholed drunk (myself included) but don’t harass other people nor cause criminal damage etc.

    If people were serious about alcohol abuse then they would target, strongly, those who actually take the piss. Stop allowing people off because they were drunk, especially if it’s persistent. Also if vintners are sick of their industry being targeted then they need to train their staff (bouncers and bartenders) to stop serving drunk people and immediately kick people out. However, we as a society are far too lenient on drunk people.

    In New Zealand, cops would regular frequent the bars/nightclubs at night, and if a drunk person was found in there, the establishment was fined, the Manager was fined, and if Bartender was caught serving a drunkard, they were fined, and a bouncer was fined if he allowed drunk people in.

    Trying to change the culture itself is needed but that is overly ambitious and is probably impossible, and if it is possible, it would be vary gradual, but if we come down hard on those responsible and the worst offenders then it would be at least a start. We all recognise there is problem with drink but we refuse to punish individuals, instead we punish everyone for the actions of the minority.

    Rant mode off.

    • docconcoct says :

      Well, the interesting thing about being drunk is that in the eyes of the law, for example, if someone has sex with a fully conscience person who verbally consents but is drunk this can be deemed as rape since in the person is considered to have diminished cognitive ability and are incapable of giving consent.

      From this perspective the whole ‘being drunk shows your true colours and what you are really like’ etc. doesn’t really hold water. Either we are capable of making decisions while drunk or we’re not.

      Why is it that when someone is high on some class A drug and behaves in a specific manner that the drug is to blame but alcohol is different.

      Like alcohol class A drugs will not drive everyone to destructive behaviour. I think this view that alcohol is not really to blame for people acting the shite is symptomatic of the apologist nature of our culture where we blame the drinker not the drink.

      Now, I’d suggest we compare drinking a few too many pints to someone who has downed a bottle of spirits or something. Both alcohol, but I’d wager that there is likely more negative outcomes on the stronger stuff. Quantity is certainly also a factor.

      Anyway, point being I don’t buy into the idea that alcohol isn’t the problem. It’s a drug like any other and changes our behaviour and not necessarily in line with our ‘true natures’.

      • petertferguson says :

        My experience is that it is always the same people who get into fights, cause damage, and harass people. IT is generally symptomatic of how they behave while sober too, they just were not as blatant about it. If drink was to blame then why aren’t I out smashing windows and starting fights?

        Now, obviously to say drink is blameless would be a bit naive but it is not the sole factor nor even the major factor. If you introduce a drug and get different results then there must be another variable, and to me that is the person’s personality.

        You say, you ‘don’t buy into the idea the alcohol isn’t the problem’. Well I think it is A problem, but not THE problem.

        • docconcoct says :

          It’s a fair assessment pointing out that there must be other variables otherwise everyone would be out smashing things up. I’d agree personality goes a long way but as I highlighted what is being drunk and the quantity is also a factor, not to mention that alcohol inherently affects people differently.

          A perfectly nice chap might go totally bananas on a couple of pints when 2 pints for someone else would barely be noticeable in terms of behavioural change. When you introduce a drug to any one person’s system only the general effects can be predicted – example, slurring impaired judgement and slower reaction times – but their are plenty of unpredictable subjective outcomes too. I’d use the analogy of LSD where some people have a great time and others have a ‘bad trip’ even when the drug comes from the same batch.

          Of course arseholes will drink and can use it as an excuse to do what they want but I wouldn’t go so far as to say people generally behave symptomatically of their sober self when drunk. There are plenty of folk who would never dance, for example, when sober but there is no stopping them when drunk.

          You might say, ah well, this is their true nature being brought out. Well, I’d like to pose the following. Say, there is a man/woman who has inherent urges to act the bollocks. All they think about is ‘Jesus, I’d love to knock the hat off that Garda.’ but – unlike non-human animals – they use their intellect to choose not to indulge in base urges. They decide to act in an acceptable manner. If they get too drunk and knock the hat off a Garda once, after 50 years of not doing so, does that mean they are showing their true colours or that a drug is affecting them in a way which is not reflective of who they are typically?

          The drunker we get the more atypical out brain function becomes and I think that it is not entirely accurate to say that only aresholes or trouble makers act the bollocks when drunk. Although there may be a correlation between arseholes who get excessively drunk even when they know the likely outcome.

          We can both agree that certainly alcohol is not the only problem but – even though I’d not want this myself – imagine a world where alcohol is not the cultural norm. I think it’s safe to say there would be a lot less crap going down at 5am in the morning.

          • finishedatlast says :

            I think the frame of mind of a person on a given occasion or as a norm has a huge affect on their behaviour. Taking the LSD analogy a persons general outlook can hugely affect the trip they will have and I believe the same applies to drink. I’ve known guys who are decent people sober and at times can be ‘great’ drunks but if something is praying on their mind it can dictate where their evening will go. Alcohol is a depressive and if you are in a dark place mentally it will only add to the darkness.

            • docconcoct says :

              I’d agree with all of that. I don’t think it’s a safe claim that there are only certain people who react badly to alcohol and others never will. As Peter pointed out there are too many variables to be considered. Nice people can become bad drunks too even if they generally are well behaved and pleasant drunks.

          • petertferguson says :

            True enough, some good points there. I do believe if somebody brought out alcohol today as a new drug, it would be banned in a heartbeat. It is too culturally ingrained to ever try and rid ourselves of it.

            One thing I think would help, which probably goes against what people think should be done, would be to extend licencing hours. It may not help people drink less, but people would leave at different times. There would be less people traffic around and it makes streets easier to police. I think piling all the drunk people into the streets at one time causes an awful lot of issues.

            And from personal experience, as a person who used to drink to get drunk. In this system I never drank as much as in Ireland I felt the need to get all my drink crammed in by a certain time, with extended hours I did throw the drinks back and ended up staying sober as a result. Not too sure if that would be the same experience for everyone though.

            • docconcoct says :

              Aye, in the town of Letterkenny where all the pubs are on one street it is very apparent turfing everyone out of the clubs and pubs at the same time is the main reason for boxing matches and what not. I’d agree with the extended hours idea.

    • finishedatlast says :

      You make a good point about the amount of responsibility shirked by publicans. Time and time again drink is served to those who have clearly had enough. The measures in New Zealand seem a bit draconian but are no doubt effective

  2. Vanessa Scanlon says :

    I don’t like the 10 o clock idea, however, the Corkian sounds like a great person. Good job 🙂

  3. ryanyllek says :

    Some brief comments.

    1) I used to be teetotal, because I despised the savage (perjorative, for you of ‘street parlance’) culture of binge and excess that characterises our drinking habits. I now enjoy the odd drink, but I can’t handle it – most can’t -, and I still despise the culture. This may, or may not, have something to do with my engrained misanthropy.

    2) Drink does have the effect of altering a person’s mind, but the person, usually, makes the conscious choice to do so. In this respect, I feel the law that is alluded to is flawed (Law being often morally ambiguous). My view is that if we champion personal liberty, then we must censure any kind of reckless treatment of that liberty. As Spiderman says, with great power, comes great responsibility and at the minute, people are not taking some fucking responsibility. Censure in the form of widespread social revulsion – do it like the Greeks, ostracize those fuckers.

  4. Jaded Barmaid says :

    May I start by saying I have been known to enjoy a drink on occasion and find drink can be a very useful way of releasing stress and when enjoyed responsibly can be great craic.(when enjoyed irresponsibly it can cause huge amonths of stress and self loathing, depression which is no craic) That being said this habit of Irish people of drinking themselves into oblivion is disgusting. The practice of swamping double vodkas and red bull, and doing rounds of shots purely for the propose of getting rat asred should be addressed. Here is where I have to be careful not to sound like a drink aware advert, there is too much focus on telling people “drink is bad, you are only allowed a mouthful of communion wine at Christmas otherwise you are a terrible person and a drain on society” lets face it people are not going to listen that that preachy shite. there is a middle ground which is where I stand, people should be thought how to drink safely and still enjoy that warm fuzzy felling that comes with a few pints. In a nut shell If you are drunk enough to think that Jaeger bombs are a good idea them then you are probably too drunk to be drinking them in the first place!

    • finishedatlast says :

      That’s a nice summation Jaded. I agree with the sentiment and bar staff are not supposed serve people who are drunk. It wasn’t so long ago celebrating the end of the college year that I was refused service in an iconic Galway pub because I was too drunk. I wasn’t loud or stumbling around the place or ordering shots but I was slurring my words. I was indignant at the time but on reflection it was a fair call. So there are pubs out there who take their responsibility to their customers seriously, drunk people cannot be relied upon to make the right decision about when to stop drinking.

  5. Jaded Barmaid says :

    I know there are places that will continue to serve people regardless of how drunk they are but i also know that the majority of seasoned bar staff will have no problem telling a drunk person to “go for a burger” which is code for “fuck off you pisshead you’ve no chance of getting served any where” also stopping people from drinking certain kinds of drinks such as shots by saying things like ” ok you’ve had one shot already why don’t you wait a half hour for it to hit you system and come back to me if you still want it” the majority of the time they won’t come back.
    This is the responsible sale of alcohol but this isn’t a strict set of guidelines, perhaps if it was mandatory for all bar staff to do a short coarse as is the case in many countries, Australia and Scotland are two off the top of my head. During the busy summer in Galway many temporary staff are hired many of whom think bar tending is just about lashing drink out over the counter. I have experienced terrible verbal abuse from people I have refused which only goes to convince me I was right.
    I know it can come as a surprise when you are refused if you’re not falling or fighting or vomiting on yourself, finishedatlast, but the idea is to prevent you getting to that point.
    I’ve so many stories but I’ll share my favorite from the summer. One fine summers day at the beginning of August a girl in her early thirties was enjoying a few drinks and having a bit of a flutter on the geegees. When all of a sudden she began projectile vomiting all over herself and the smoking area of the fine establishment which she was patronising. Because she was to explosive (for want of a better word) to leed out through the crowd, the staff of said establishment got her a bucket in which to complete her business and a glass of water. When she finally got it all up she turned to the staff looking for more drink and said “ah I’ll be grand I’m not even that drunk”
    know the one the one thats one to many? Yah that was about 6 drinks ago

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