Jack Quann
Jack Quann

21.35 15 Apr 2021


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A consultant in emergency medicine has said extending opening hours for pubs and nightclubs does not suit Ireland's 'drink, fight, fall over' approach to alcohol.

Dr Chris Luke was speaking following a new Health Research Board (HRB) report on alcohol consumption here.

It showed "continued high levels of consumption and hazardous drinking habits", particularly in men aged 25 to 34.

There has also been an increase in demand on hospital services due to alcohol-related harm.

The HRB found that while consumption levels have plateaued since 2013, it remains significantly higher than a 2020 target - set by the Government - of no more than 9.1 litres of pure alcohol per person a year.

In 2019, on average every person in Ireland aged 15 and over drank 10.8 litres of pure alcohol.

That is the equivalent of either 40 bottles of vodka, 113 bottles of wine or 436 pints of beer.

Dr Luke told The Hard Shoulder an argument for longer licensing hours will not work.

"You're talking about a process on the islands of Britain and Ireland that goes back to the late '90s, when [former British Prime Minister] Tony Blair suggested that we should develop a continental café society.

"That was the argument [that] we should be like the Europeans, the continentals.

"The problem is is that we're not continentals, we're islanders.

"And the further out you go into the wild Atlantic weather - a bit like the Finnish - the Finnish used to be huge drinkers as well, because of the weather partly, and the remoteness.

"The Irish have always drunk more, and more enthusiastically than the continentals.

"They do drink a lot and they get very high rates of cirrhosis, but the way they drink is very different.

"They tend to sip their drinks over an hour or two...or they sip their wine over a long, leisurely meal.

"[This] is very different from the way we drink - which is basically drink, fight, fall over."

'Creeping changes'

Dr Luke said more people are coming into emergency departments with alcohol-related problems "at all hours of the day and night".

And he said Irish people have been drinking heavily for the last 100 years.

"The thing is we've been practicing for a long time, we've been at it for probably centuries - but certainly for a century have been drinking very, very heavily.

"I suppose there have been creeping, incremental changes which have made matters worse.

"There's the economics - we're so much more affluent than we used to be, so we can afford anything by way of luxury, whether it's an expensive bottle of wine or spirits of any sort.

"We've also seen an incremental, almost sneaky, rise in the average strength of booze since the late 80s."

Dr Luke said it has been suggested by some that this was in response to the "acid house scene".

"The drinks industry was so worried in Britain and Ireland about the fact that the youngsters were taking ecstasy, or whatever, and actually stopped drinking en-masse for a long time in the early '90s.

"And it seemed the response was to increase the strength of drink".

Dr Luke added that it is "staggering" that given one in four people in Ireland don't drink, the actual consumption rates among those who do were likely much higher.

"We have some of the highest rates of binge drinking - and of course if our figures were real, if they were really truthful and people weren't embarrassed or shy about their drinking - we'd actually probably admit to greater drinking.

"And also we have a remarkably high number of teetotalers in the country.... it's considerably higher than in Scotland and England.

"Relatively speaking, those who drink drink even more than the average figures suggest".

Main image: A pub selling take away pints to the public in Dublin. Picture by: Leah Farrell / RollingNews.ie

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Alcohol Consumption Dr Chris Luke Extending Opening Hours HRB Health Research Board Opening Hours For Pubs

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