Wednesday 26 October 2016

Ireland is turning into a dinner-party republic - only the pub can save us now

Published 27/04/2015 | 02:30

'If drinking is driven underground, as it has been, then there is no one to shout stop'
'If drinking is driven underground, as it has been, then there is no one to shout stop'

There will come a time when fun will be outlawed. There were so many anti-drink articles in this paper I was going to turn myself into the local Garda station and confess to being a barman.

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But there are worse. Thousand are housebound by red wine and men who cook big dinners late at night. Ireland is turning into a dinner-party republic, and only the pub can save us.

Insular groups are coming together in cells, like IRA men. They know only what the company knows and whatever you say, say nottin' until the red wine flows, and then drink until your tongue is as red as a vampire's.

Out comes all sort of unedited rubbish with the kids still in the house. The outside world is blocked out by curtains as thick as a slice of farmer's soda bread.

I have been told stories of vomiting over sofas and fur coats made out several bears. There are enough ear rings lost in the crevices of the sofas of Ireland to fund a hundred hospitals. And, yes, there are fights.

Society controls by simply watching and so we behave when we are watched. What annoys me most is no distinction has been made between home drinking and social drinking in the pub.

There are times when I wonder if I'm in an ethical business. I have seen lives ruined and I don't exactly hate drink myself, but we do try to help people and the customers too play a part in that they will have a chat with those who are overdoing it.

If drinking is driven underground, as it has been, then there is no one to shout stop. All we hear now is drink is bad for you and the merest sip will have us all on the road to ruin. It's the typical reaction to a crisis.

The Irish are mad for drink. We all know that.

In France the revolutionaries of 1789 reacted to the excesses by overreacting. Heads were chopped off. So now the terror of alcoholism has led to a call for drink to be banned altogether, or that's my reading of the new temperance movement which offers very little by way of practical advice.

Go out to your local pub and meet the people. There is a healing in the meeting. Stories are told, troubles are shared and there's the chance of falling in love.

There are so many lonely, single people who have given up on the search for love. Computer dating is great. We're all for it. Take her or him to the pub. It's neutral ground and the buzz around will get ye loosened up, as will the few drinks.

I know what I'm talking about. I own a pub. I would bet many of those who give out about "the drink" haven't the slightest idea just how enjoyable a good night in the pub can be.

I am a real barman and not some lad looking at the pub on a screen. I'm not a very efficient barman. My regulars say I spend too much time talking and not enough time pouring.

But talk is good. One publican said to me lately "we should be paid by the VHI and HSE. For counselling".

Dinner parties, though, should be banned for serving too much drink.

Picture the scene.

The cell are together, probably giving out.

There's a loud knock at the door. The maid from a place where they have palm trees (£4.50 an hour, a day off every month) is knocked over in the rush to escape out the back, through the crystal conservatory with chandeliers the size of a bull elephant's ears, and the games room with the half-acre billiard table and the pony's crèche.

But it's no good. The raid has been well planned. The gardaí are front and back. The Dinner Party Six get done for after-hours, smoking in a public place, drunkenness, serving people who are drunk, failing to keep adequate measures, and their young lad of 14, who snuck in a bottle of vodka, is plastered. So add underage drinking to all the rest.

So here's what the penalties would be if The Dinner Party Six owned or were "found on" a licensed premises. The house would be closed and the inhabitants would have to leave during the period of the closure order. The fines would be enough to pay for the pony and a second maid for the year. And if there was persistent offending, the publican would lose his or her licence.

Drinking at home sets a bad example.

Some bars have a lot to answer for. Fill the cash register and never mind the consequences is their mission statement.

We need to look at how we should drink and what we should drink. The "pre-parties" as they are known are a feature of youthful drinking. There is no bar person to shout stop and our young people can do serious damage to their health.

Publicans can't bear drunks. They wreck our heads and sometimes our bodies. We are the best early intervention system there is. Through experience we can spot the danger signs.

For some of us, the pub is more than our place of business. Because we do not stay at home of a night means we have to take the pub as our living room and we want to keep our premises homely, but lots of fun too.

Some day, some doctor somewhere will summon up the courage to prescribe a few drinks, in moderation, instead of anti-depressants.

As it is, we're minding people by keeping an eye out for those who are drinking far too much. But I have to admit there are many who fall through the cracks. I try to help when I can.

And, of course, I'm not in favour of binge drinking. And, of course, I know alcohol can ruin lives. All I'm saying is drink can be fun, in moderation.

The age-old toast in this country is sláinte, or good health. And sláinte is exactly what you get when you drink sensibly.

Irish Independent

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