Sobering true story of real survival is ignored at Euro 2012 launch
Alcoholics Anonymous was sadly not present when football fans were made aware of drink, notes Declan Lynch
IT WAS such a happy scene at the Aviva Stadium. FAI chief executive John Delaney and Minister Eamon Gilmore were launching a Euro 2012 Survival Guide, having the usual picture taken of the politician kicking a football -- oh, how they laugh.
The Survival Guide tells you how to order a beer in Polish, how to call the Irish embassy in an emergency, and anything else you might need to know along the way between these two poles, as it were.
John Delaney loves the supporters, so there was one of them in the picture too. And there was a model dressed in the team colours, because that always seems like a good idea.
Oh, and there was the woman from drinkaware.ie, which has apparently compiled the guide along with the Department of Foreign Affairs.
It all had that official co-ordinated feel of an ongoing policy-driven response to the issue of alcohol. And we know how well that works.
In fact, you'd think that drinkaware.ie was an arm of the Government itself, not an "awareness group" which is funded by the drinks industry.
As if an awareness group was needed in Ireland, in relation to drink. At all times, almost from the moment we are born, we are aware of drink. And certainly anyone thinking of going to support the Republic at a major championship will be profoundly aware of drink.
Drinkaware.ie carries on regardless with its corporate mission, urging us to "drink responsibly", to be "rethinking our drinking", and not to "consume too many of our units in one sitting".
They will advise us to drink this way and to drink that way, to drink in all sorts of improbable ways, though one of the most simple formulations is never used: Drink Less.
Or even: Don't Drink At All.
Not that this open collaboration between the political and sporting elites and the drinks industry was of much interest to the media, which seemed to think that the "controversial" bit concerned John Delaney and the famous free bars he provided for the fans in Estonia and Slovakia, solidifying his support base among the grassroots.
Mr Delaney has apparently put all that behind him. Which is sad, really, as there was at least a raw honesty about the booze trains.
It was Paddy at play, Paddy doing his own version of drinkaware.ie -- to echo David McSavage, he is drunk, and he is aware that he is drunk.
In his drinking life in general, Paddy has never paid much attention to the advice of the Department of Foreign Affairs, nor has he imbibed much of the wisdom of the "experts", and as regards the drinks industry, let us just say that he knows whose side they are on.
Interestingly, there was no representative from AlcoholicsAnonymous.ie at the Aviva event, but that is to be expected in an operation of this kind.
When all those official forces are gathered together, Paddy realises that no truth will he find there, that in a country crucified by alcoholism, the only real experts in this field are indeed the alcoholics themselves, the anonymous ones who have gone down there and done the research, and have come through it, and are somehow still alive.
And he knows that some day he too may reach that fork in the road.
But it will almost certainly not be in Poland.