herald

Wednesday 18 October 2017

We'll never shake boozy image when even TDs hold meetings in a pub

The Doheny and Nesbitt's School of Economics.

It may seem like an oxymoron, the holding of an economic debate in a pub, but this is the informal name given to the long-standing practice of economists and TDs discussing, and directing, the country's finances while others are knocking back pints in Nesbitt's, a stone's throw from the Department of Finance.

And indeed, on the night of the Budget, a TD, a senator and an economist gathered in said hostelry to discuss the day's business, seeing nothing wrong with a venue that would have most other countries' leaders scratch their heads at its utter inappropriateness.

But the D&NSoE is just one example of why many outsiders feel Ireland has a dysfunctional attitude towards alcohol.

The stereotype of an unbreakable bond was alluded to this week by two celebrities - Gary Kemp and Shia LeBoeuf - who cast an interesting light on how the rest of the world perceives us.

There's nothing new in visiting UK soap stars and reality tv halfwits telling us how much they adore Ireland, and declaring their love of our friendliness, our beautiful women, and the Cliffs of Moher.

Spandau Ballet's Kemp raised the stakes, however, revealing how Ireland helped to inspire his greatest oeuvre. "Through The Barricades was is something I wouldn't have been able to write if I hadn't spent my time in Ireland," he declared, "and felt close to its culture".

And what exactly did Kemp Minor do in order to feel "close to our culture"? Well, he went boozing. "We were hanging out in the Pink Elephant and various Leeson Street bars," he revealed. "It was pretty wild ... we had to try and compete and keep up with you guys, which was pretty hard."

Shia's opinion about Ireland, though more of a throwaway line in an anecdote about the night he got arrested in New York, has a similarly alcohol-related theme. But the clarity with which Shia isolates what the world associates with Ireland, what Ireland is synonymous with, is deeply troubling.

whiskey

"I was coming back from Ireland," Shia recounted, "visiting my girl, and in Ireland - like when you go to Rome you have spaghetti - when you go to Ireland you drink whiskey."

So in the past week, two well-known stars have both casually equated Ireland with getting hammered, in such an off-hand way as to suggest that it's the accepted image of this country worldwide. Yet in this week's budget, the Minister for Health has once again refused do to anything that will make drinking, with its chronic social and economic ills, less attractive.

I guess that's what happens when you see nothing wrong with holding political discourse in a pub.

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