Hospitals quiet as Arthur's Day passes without a hiccup
TWO songs were written about it, reports of 30-year-olds with "end-stage" liver disease emerged, and our drinking culture was described as an "epidemic" – but come Arthur's Day, no carnage followed the controversy.
Last Arthur's Day ambulance call-outs were up 30 per cent and over 2,000 hospital beds were filled by people with alcohol-related injuries. But this year, the Sunday Independent, following a "media scrum" between Diageo's Peter O'Brien and singer Christy Moore, spent last Thursday night in various hospital emergency departments around Dublin and found that the majority of units were extremely quiet.
Our findings were backed up by statistics provided by various hospitals in Dublin and around the country.
We visited St James's, the Mater and St Vincent's hospitals in the city between 11pm last Thursday and 1am on Friday and witnessed no alcohol-related injuries and only a handful of patients in each department.
"A&E presentations at St Vincent's University Hospital were within the normal range and there were no alcohol-related incidents," said a spokesperson on Friday.
Limerick hosted acts such as UK rapper Wretch 32 and The Original Rudeboys, but "Arthur's Day had no demonstrable effect on the emergency department at University Hospital Limerick," a HSE representative said.
Beaumont Hospital in Dublin said "there was no effect on admission levels to A&E as a result of Arthur's Day".
Patrick Plunkett, consultant in emergency medicine at St James's Hospital in Dublin, said that in spite of 2012's statistics: "I can tell you that, last year, our numbers on Arthur's Day were down!"
Declan Lynch Page 14
But this year the city emergency room had 176 attendances, which was "busier than usual" (for a Thursday night), but within that figure the emergency department had "an exceptional amount of alcohol-related presentations".
The Mater Hospital in Dublin city appeared moderately busy during our investigation with gardai present on site as well as a number of security guards.
St Vincent's University Hospital, which is close to UCD, was by far the quietest of the emergency departments, with only eight patients in the waiting area when we were there.
St James's, closest to the Guinness brewery and the many venues and pubs that held Arthur's Day events, was most affected on the night.
Dr Plunkett is cynical of the fact that the annual celebration falls on a Thursday as it's "the traditional drinking night for people who received benefit cheques".
In spite of Mr O'Brien's Prime Time protestations that the event brought music, the pub and people together, Dr Plunkett argued that "alcohol is the unifying theme". He also went on to say that "we drink in an unhealthy fashion in Ireland" and that we "binge drink".
Commenting on the absence of anticipated alcohol-related incidents on the night, Mr O'Brien said that Arthur's Day 2013 had been "a great success". When asked if the event would take place again next year, he said: "We will be reviewing and evaluating it over the coming months."
Script frontman Danny O'Donoghue, whose band performed at three venues last Thursday, claimed that Christy Moore's criticisms of the event were simply to boost his record sales.
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar also commented on the annual festival.
"Ireland has a problem with excess drinking and binge drinking, but I think campaigners are wrong to make such a big issue of one festival. It was all a bit too pious for me," he said.
"A lot of people were condemning Arthur's Day in the run-up to the event. I thought I would go along to see it for myself before forming an opinion. I don't generally drink Guinness but I caught Bobby Womack and The Script and they were great.
"The vast majority of people enjoy themselves without causing harm. My view is the nanny state doesn't work. There should be a greater focus on personal responsibility. The pendulum has swung too far towards nanny-statism.
"Listening to some opinions, you'd think that people did not have free will, that corporations are the cause of all our problems and State intervention the only solution. I just don't agree with that view of society. Of course the State has a responsibility, but society should be about the rights and responsibilities of individuals, founded on economic and personal freedom."