Pub trade's anxious wait for drink-death verdict
A JURY is expected to decide later this week whether two barmen are culpable for the manslaughter of a father of two who died from acute alcohol poisoning after spending an evening drinking heavily in Hayes Hotel, Thurles, Co Tipperary.
At Nenagh Circuit Criminal Court last week, hotel bar manager Gary Wright, 34, and barman Aidan Dalton, 28, denied the manslaughter of Graham Parish at the hotel on July 1, 2008.
Mr Parish, of 41 Calder Terrace, Lomeshaye village near Nelson, Lancashire, England, was staying at the hotel when he died hours after celebrating his 26th birthday in the bar with colleagues. A civil engineer with Reliant Installation in England, Mr Parish had arrived in Ireland on June 30, 2008, to oversee work at a meat processing plant in Dew Valley, Thurles.
After finishing work he made his way to the hotel and entered the bar at 6.30pm where he started drinking pints of Guinness.
Over the course of the evening, he was joined by five other English workers -- Craig Bateson, Wayne Doubtfire, Marcus Ludwell, Daniel Watson and Simon Turner.
The group drank heavily that night. Bar manager, Gary Wright and barman, Aidan Dalton -- both with addresses at Kilfithmone, Borrisleigh, Co Tipperary -- were on duty. Some of those in Mr Parish's company remarked at the speed that he was consuming alcohol as the night wore on.
After 10pm, a vodka was put into Mr Parish's drink and he downed it in one go.
Subsequently, unknown to him, another two vodkas were put into another pint which he drank.
Judge Tom Teehan heard that Mr Parish then challenged people to a drinking race and claimed he could down a half pint of spirits quicker than they could drink a half pint of lager.
Till receipts from the hotel bar showed that €30 worth of shots were bought at 10.39pm -- more than four hours after he began drinking. Mr Dalton asked Mr Wright if it was okay to serve the alcohol and was permitted to do so.
Aidan Doyle, counsel for Mr Dalton, said the minimum price for a spirit was €3.60 and said the purchase worked out at eight shots.
The court heard there was "talk of vodka and gin" and "mention of a Baileys and a brandy" and possibly a Jagermeister, but the spirits purchased for the cocktail were never specified.
Mr Turner said the pint glass was over half full and described it as "a cocktail of mixed spirits". Mr Parish drank the entire cocktail in one go and shortly afterwards slumped off his bar stool and fell on to the floor.
He was carried from the bar by four of the drinkers to the hotel's 'Commercial Room' on the first floor where they laid him on his side and wedged him between a table and chair.
Some of the group then went to get food from a nearby takeaway.
Night porter Philip Mahoney said he came on duty at midnight and was informed by Gary Wright that Mr Parish was upstairs.
Mr Mahoney said he checked on Mr Parish at 2am and 2.30am. Just before 6am, the porter checked again but Mr Parish did not answer.
As Mr Mahoney checked for Mr Parish's pulse, he saw vomit on the deceased and called the guards.
Mr Parish was pronounced dead by a doctor shortly after 7am.
Pathologist Dr Stephen Finn, who conducted a post-mortem examination on the deceased, said the death was caused by acute alcohol intoxication.
The landmark case is being keenly observed by publicans and licensees across the country.
The charges against the two barmen came about following a 16-month investigation under the supervision of Supt Tony Cogan of Thurles garda station.
Now retired, Mr Cogan was present in court last week for the proceedings.
Patrick McCarthy, prosecuting, told the 12-person jury that Mr Parish's death was "manslaughter by gross negligence". He said the negligence was of a very high degree and involved the high likelihood of substantial injuries to the victim. The jury heard that Mr Wright and Mr Dalton w "had a duty of care" to patrons in the bar who were being served alcohol.
Hayes Hotel manager Gerry McGovern admitted that neither of the employees were provided with any specific training on potentially dangerous amounts of alcohol.
Mr McGovern said both barmen were very good workers and trustworthy.
Regarding the service of alcohol at the hotel, the bar staff had to observe the demeanour of people who came into the premises and see if they were okay to be served.
If people were unsteady on their feet or were "being a nuisance", they were not to be served.
Hayes Hotel is an extremely popular haunt for GAA supporters as the sporting organisation was founded in the hotel on November 1, 1884. It was then known as the Commercial Hotel.
The trial before the jury of six men and six women resumes on Tuesday.