September, 2013

Alcohol takes centre stage on “Arthur’s Day”

“Arthur’s Day is neither an altruistic nor philanthropic initiative. It’s a very well-resourced marketing campaign to increase the sales of Diageo products,” said Suzanne Costello, CEO of Alcohol Action Ireland.

“The reality is that alcohol, and not music, takes centre stage on Arthur’s Day, which is an alcohol marketing event that serves exactly the same function as the alcohol industry’s sponsorship of sports and arts events, which is to increase awareness of an alcohol brand, sell more of that alcohol and, ultimately, increase shareholder profit.

“An avalanche of marketing messages portraying alcohol as a hugely positive product is followed by a request for people to ‘drink responsibly’, but only, as ever, after they are first and foremost encouraged to drink, and in this particular case, to start early by raising a pint just before 6 p.m. on a Thursday evening,” said Ms Costello.

“There has clearly been nothing ‘responsible’ about drinking behaviour on Arthur’s Day in recent years, with a reported 30% increase in ambulance call-outs in Dublin city centre alone following the event last year, and much like any weekend night in Ireland this is now another opportunity to see our excessive drinking habits laid bare.

“No matter what the attempted positive spin put on alcohol consumption by those who sell it, the fact remains that people will die of alcohol-related illnesses in Ireland on Arthur’s Day – just as they do on every other day. They will be some of the 88 who die because of their drinking every month. 2,000 hospital beds will be filled in our hospitals on Arthur’s Day by people with alcohol-related illnesses, many of them the young men and women among whom rates of alcohol-related liver disease are rising at an alarming rate.

“As was highlighted recently in very stark terms in no less than three separate reports, alcohol remains a major risk factor in suicide and self-harm in Ireland, not to mention crime, child welfare and protection, as well as many other issues that take a heavy toll on individuals, families and communities throughout this country,” said Ms Costello.

“Our relationship with alcohol is not a reason to celebrate and we certainly do not need a manufactured, industry event that further promotes harmful products to young people and which also, sadly and predictably, routinely results in the kind of drinking behaviour that has led us to our current, extremely high levels of alcohol-related harm.

“If Arthur’s Day serves any purpose whatsoever, it is to remind us precisely why a comprehensive national alcohol strategy is needed as a matter of urgency.”