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We must guard against decline of the Irish pub

Editorial


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The chance to go out for a few drinks is the social highlight of the week for some people. Photo: Stock image

The chance to go out for a few drinks is the social highlight of the week for some people. Photo: Stock image

The chance to go out for a few drinks is the social highlight of the week for some people. Photo: Stock image

Ernest Hemingway had a rule. “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut,” his thinking ran. But these days it seems it is the pubs that are closing and mouths are left open, aghast as the cost of living continues to rise.

A dismal report from the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (Digi) informs us that one-fifth of the country’s pubs have called last orders for the last time since 2016.

The writer John Hillaby said few things are more pleasant than a village graced with a good church, a good priest and a good pub.

But it seems many rural Irish towns and parishes are having to get by without all three.

Our pubs have long been revered as a sanctuary by some, or as a last resort by others. In either case, they have always enjoyed a pivotal if not quite a protected status in the life of the nation – especially at times such as these.

“When money’s tight and hard to get and your horse is also ran, When all you have is a heap of debt a pint of plain is your only man,” was how Flann O’Brien put it.

It seems especially egregious that the opportunity to sate one’s thirst is becoming more of a rarity. Fifteen counties have seen the number of pubs decline by between 20pc and 30pc.

According to Kathryn D’Arcy, who was recently appointed chair of Digi: “The Irish pub has been in steady decline for years, and these stark figures once again highlight the need to secure the sustainable future of our pubs.”

The industry wants a cut in the high excise rate on alcohol.

As a class, publicans may not always attract too much sympathy. Some will argue they have priced themselves out of the market.

It might also be argued that excise tax on alcohol is kept deliberately high to conform with health concerns and to curb abuse.

All are reasonable and relevant considerations, for as the poet WB Yeats observed: “The worst thing about some men is that when they are not drunk, they are sober.”

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Brendan Behan’s take was less complicated: “I only drink on two occasions – when I’m thirsty and when I’m not thirsty.”

But beyond the high-stool histrionics and bar-fly philosophy, for very many people the chance to go out for a few drinks is the social highlight of their week.

The pub can serve as a one-stop solitary decompression chamber, dating agency or talking shop.

Our pubs and their hard-working staff have a proud tradition in attracting tourism to the country too.

In their promotion of craic agus ceol, they have won a reputation around the world.

They have even fashioned a trend for a faux variety of Irish hostelry that can be found in the farthest reaches of the planet.

All the more reason, then, why we had best look after the authentic and truly original home-grown variety.


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