REFORMED alcoholics Christy Moore and Gabriel Byrne have joined the mounting voices of criticism towards Arthurs Day, which takes place in venues across Ireland this Thursday, September 26.
Diageo has been forced to defend its creation – a music event sponsored by Guinness, after a host of medical specialists and celebrities have slammed it as a shameless promotion of binge drinking – and Guinness.
Now in its fifth year and marketed by the drinks giant as a day to celebrating the legacy of Arthur Guinness, the man who first brewed the drink, doctors have criticised the annual event – arguing that alcohol-related illnesses in Ireland have reached “epidemic” proportions.
The Royal College of Physicians of Ireland held a public meeting in Dublin on Monday entitled Who Calls The Shots to discuss Ireland’s troubling relationship with alcohol.
Key speaker Professor Frank Murray said that a visit to any accident and emergency or liver department in the country would show the damaging effects of alcohol, and Ireland did not need another reason to drink. One in four emergency department attendances, he added, are alcohol-related.
Stephen Stewart, liver disease specialist and director of the Liver Disease Centre in the Mater Hospital, Dublin, said steps need to be taken to address the problem.
He said: “Where does Arthur’s Day fit into all of this? I regularly see patients in their 30s and 40s, and women in particular, with end-stage liver disease, having never realised they have a drink problem.”
So enraged are Christy Moore and the Waterboys at the concept that they have gone so far as to release special anti-Arthur’s Day songs to coincide with the event, which Moore in his song of protest has labelled “Arthur’s alcoholiday”.
Moore’s Arthur’s Day, which includes the line “Arthurs Alcoholiday is comin round again, he’s the patron saint of porter canonized by the Advertisin’ Men” will be available on iTunes from September 26.
Bestselling author Marian Keyes also took a swipe at the event in a recent tweet which read: “I am AGIN Arthurs Day! A marketing wheeze which tries to coat-tail on Irish identity and pride.”
Actor Gabriel Byrne, a long-time opponent, said it was simply a good excuse to go out and get drunk. He said following last year’s event: “Arthur’s Day, what was the point of that nonsense? That was a cynical piece of exercise in a country which has a huge drinking problem”.
Film director Lenny Abrahamson, actor Donal O’Kelly, and musicians Steve Wall and Declan O’Rourke have also spoken out against the event.
Diageo has hit back saying that Guinness is showcasing upcoming Irish musical talent by giving them a stage at more than 500 music events nationwide.
It also said that it had introduced a responsible drinking awareness campaign around Arthur’s Day and offered advice to pubs that were creating their own events, namely, encouraging all 500 participating pubs to hand out free food and water at larger ticketed venues.
It was reported that during last year’s event, Dublin city centre saw a 30% rise in ambulance call-outs between 6pm and 3am, while gardaí in Dublin said they were ‘overwhelmed’ and gardai countrywide said they had been more busy than usual.
- Ireland’s Department of Finance has said that the new levy on wine (an extra levy of €1 per bottle was imposed in the last Budget) has earned a revenue of €45m so far this year. Finance Minister Michael Noonan says 45 million bottles of wine were sold between January and the end of August. In total, taxes on alcohol products have brought in €175m in the first eight months of a year.