Ireland’s drinking ‘culture’ is real and it’s an embarrassment

Only the Irish say: Eating is cheating

Letters to the Editor

Liam Collins's piece in which he claims that we don't have a problem with alcohol so much as a problem with a nanny state is in equal measure high on rhetoric and ignorant of the evidence.

Such flippant claims would be risible were the matter not so serious.

Mr Collins talks of Italy. He says "they know that they can get another one any time they want to, so they don't have to do like the Irish." This is making a hash of reading Italians through green-tinted glasses.

I have lived in Italy. I was living in Rome shortly after Italy joined the Five Nations to make it the Six Nations. I met some Italians who were bemused at the Irish who stayed in the very type of bars Mr Collins mentions, but unlike the Italians, who might have a quick caffé (espresso) or even an alcoholic drink, they told me the Irish would hang out in these bars all day, ordering round after round.

They asked me why Irish people behaved like this. I, embarrassingly, said something along the lines of: "It's just our culture." They stared at me blankly. I thought to myself that such behaviour is probably equivalent of hordes of Italians hanging out all day in Dublin in pizza outlets, eating pizza after pizza.

Our relationship with alcohol is much more serious and deep-rooted than Mr Collins makes out.

His assertion that Ireland is "a place where a minority have a dysfunctional relationship with alcohol" is astonishing.

You'd never hear an Italian say "I drink in such and such a place" as if they were talking about running or shopping.

You'd never hear an Italian talk about food as 'soakage'.

You'd never hear an Italian say: "Eating is cheating".

The facts speak for themselves. Around 80pc of Irish adults consume alcohol and more than half of those are classified as harmful, high-risk drinkers.

Mr Collins, I don't know how this is news to you, but we most certainly do have a problem with alcohol.

Rob Sadlier

Rathfarnham, Dublin 16

The context of Gaza's suffering

Kevin Doyle's feature on Gaza ('Land of the Trapped', Saturday, June 19) raises more questions than it answers. Who or what has trapped these people?

Egypt has almost completely sealed its Gaza border crossing at Rafah. Its restrictions are far more severe than those imposed by Israel, which in one week alone this month facilitated the entry and exit of 4,100 Gazans.

When Israel evacuated all its soldiers and settlers from the Gaza Strip in August 2005, its hope was that conflict would end and that Gaza might prosper and become a peaceful neighbour - even the nucleus of a future independent Palestinian state. Instead, the rocket fire from Hamas aimed at southern Israel had escalated six-fold by 2007. That was also the year when Hamas, having won the elections, took full power in a violent coup, executed its Fatah rivals and militarized the entire enclave for war against Israel.

It was only then that Israel was forced to put its weapons blockade in place - the so-called "siege", which some people now imagine is the cause of the whole conflict.

Why would Hamas behave in this way? Well, its 1988 Charter makes it a religious obligation to wage jihad (armed struggle) not only for the elimination of the Jewish state but for the mass murder of Jews everywhere. Last summer's attacks on Israel - 4,500 rockets and mortars that, at their peak, forced 3.5 million Israeli citizens into rocket shelters daily - were viewed by Hamas as one more phase in that jihad.

Mr Doyle's article makes much of Gazans' suffering but offers little real context. True, in the war last summer far more people died in Gaza than in Israel, but what does that tragic data tell us?

First, that Israel takes care to protect its own civilians, using the Iron Dome anti-missile system and a nationwide system of rocket shelters and safe rooms in every home.

Second, that Hamas not only fails to protect its civilians but deliberately puts them in harm's way as shields for its weaponry and infrastructure, often thwarting the exceptional measures taken by the Israel Defence Force to avoid collateral harm to civilians.

Dermot Meleady

Information Officer

Embassy of Israel

Dublin 4

Beware of predictions on Greece

Dan O'Brien notes "a great deal of what has been written on Greece is based as much on the prejudices of the authors as it is on balanced assessment of the many factors at play". I consider this to be fair assessment on the prevailing market commentary. As such, one must be wary of relying on definitive conclusions arrived at in opinion pieces that are neither caveated by noting the author's record in predicting economic outcomes nor supported by a shred of analysis that would inspire pause for thought in evaluating such decrees.

In this regard, when O'Brien goes on the say "if it ever were to come to pass that Ireland followed Greece out of the euro, the effects would lead to a recession as deep, if not deeper, than the property crash" without a sliver of substantiation or humility, he will forgive me for placing his good self under the category of prejudiced authors he helpfully forewarns us of in his opening paragraph.

Kevin Barrins

Donnybrook, Dublin 4

The UN and abortion

The United Nations Committee on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights is wrong to claim that Irish law on abortion is "highly restrictive".

The committee mentions in particular the Constitution and the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013.

The Constitution affirms the right to life of both the mother and the child, while the Protection of Life Act provides for procedures to save the life of the mother.

Protecting and saving lives is supportive, not restrictive, and certainly not "highly restrictive.

Charlie Talbot

Kilcullen, Co. Kildare

Origin of 'Voltaire' quote

Just a clarification. In your Monday edition, Mary Kenny quotes Voltaire as originating the phrase "cherchez la femme".

I believe it came from a novel 'The Black Tulip' by Alexandre Dumas.

Martin Walshe

Stillorgan, Co Dublin