'It's not inherent to our genes' - Is it time to move Ireland's image away from alcohol?

Pubs are expecting one of their busiest periods this St Patrick's Weekend
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

13.39 16 Mar 2022

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'It's not inherent to our gene...

'It's not inherent to our genes' - Is it time to move Ireland's image away from alcohol?

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

13.39 16 Mar 2022

Share this article

Ireland should be moving away from an image associated with alcohol, according to the head of an alcohol action group.

It comes as pubs are expecting one of their busiest periods - with St Patrick's Day and an extra public holiday this this week.

Sheila Gilheany is CEO at Alcohol Action Ireland.


She told Breakfast Briefing people should remember alcohol is being heavily promoted.

"There is this association that's there - sometimes I think, actually, the alcohol industry are very keen obviously to promote that association.

"It's a chance for extra sales for the industry, and obviously extra profits.

"But the way we would be really saying to people is that there are low-risk drinking guidelines.

"And above all else, this is the week that I think we should be careful about drinking.

"The HSE website would advise no more than 11 standard drinks in a week for a woman, and no more than 17 standard drinks in a week for a man.

"But very particularly, on any given occasion, not to drink more than five or six standard drinks - because anything above that is really very, very risky".

A standard drink would be a pub measure of spirits, a small glass of wine or a half pint of beer.

While it takes the body at least one hour to process one standard drink.

'They're there to make money'

Asked if Ireland needs to change its image, she says: "Yes I absolutely think we do.

"But again I go back to this thing that the alcohol industry very much promote this.

"This is not something that's actually inherent to our genes, if you like, but it is being heavily promoted.

"As indeed the industry will always take any occasion - whether it's Valentines Day, Mother's Day - or whatever you might have.

"They're there to make money, they're there to answer to their shareholders.

"They're certainly not there to consider our own health around that."

She says this is also an issue when promoting Ireland abroad.

"I was just looking yesterday - there's a very nice occasion in London, and yet again you have a royal celebrity of some description appearing and being associated with things Irish, which is lovely.

"But one of those things is pulling a pint, and you really have to ask yourself: what and why does this happen?

"And it doesn't happen be accident, it happens through an industry actually actively promoting their product.

"It's not inherent, necessarily, to our culture or our identity to have to be associated with alcohol".

Some 1,543 people lost their lives in 2019 as a result of alcohol, with around one-third of those deaths from incidents.

Sheila says: "These are entirely preventable deaths; and it's no harm just to take a step back and think: 'This has been a very difficult couple of years - imagine losing it all, spoiling it all now on this week'".

Main image: Decorations are seen ahead of a St Patrick's Day parade in Birmingham, UK in March 2012. Picture by: Birmingham Images / Alamy Stock Photo

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