Counter the culture not the campaign

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The recent furore over Arthur’s Day really needs to be put in perspective.



23 October 2013

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Will the same amount of vitriol from ‘social commentators’ float to the surface during this month’s Guinness Cork Jazz Festival, renowned as one of the best jazz festivals in Europe? I doubt it. How about Electric Picnic or The Jameson Film Festival?

Would the spectacle have gone uncommented upon had the vast array of musicians and artists that performed live around the country for one night only on Arthur’s Day been spaced out over 365 days of the year?

It’s Diageo’s job to enhance sales of one of its most famous (Irish-made) products where possible. One way of doing this is to ensure that the pubs are well-attended – better still if they’re well-attended on one of the quieter nights of the week.

Diageo is only doing its job — and doing it well if the pundits are to be believed. Many pubs were full on Arthur’s Day. Sure, not every pub was able to take advantage of the night but to slate the event as a cynical marketing exercise misses the fundamental point.

As a country we’ve an issue with alcohol but having a pop at the Guinness salesmen achieves nothing. We must look behind the bluster, we must look at the culture we’ve inherited and have apparently passed onto the next generation.

Does Germany have this much trouble in the media when Oktoberfest rolls around? No, because binge-drinking isn’t an everyday part of the German culture. What’s more, Oktoberfest is recognised for what it is – an outright celebration of beer brewing, not unlike Arthur’s Day.

Why should Guinness hide its light under a bushel? Should we not be proud of our Irish brewing industry and wave it to the world?

What taints the brew is that our drinking culture gets into the mix yet all critics seem to want to recognise from the resultant compound is the Guinness additive.

We must stop blaming every beer, wine or spirits celebration that comes along and begin addressing the real issue – the Irish culture of binge-drinking.

Some years ago I sat down with a group of young people for a Discussion Forum in Drinks Industry Ireland. Their views then reflect those of young people today. Alcohol is not a social lubricant for them. It’s the whole point of an evening – to get wasted. Isn’t that depressing?  

Shouldn’t all stakeholders get serious, sit down and sort out our culture around alcohol as is suggested by ABFI Director Kathryn D’Arcy in this month’s interview rather than picking-off, one-by-one, the salesmen?



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