Sunday 17 December 2017

Anton Savage: If you want to get self-righteous about booze, why not turn attention to MEAS?

David Smith
David Smith
The Germanwings plane
Jeremy Clarkson
Paul O'Connell
Henry Shefflin

David Smith, the Ireland Country Director of Diageo, has resigned from the board of an anti-binge drinking campaign his company funds.

When it was announced that Diageo was funding the Stop Out-Of-Control Drinking campaign, a bandwagon was quickly cobbled together and the world and its mother leapt on it in a frenzy of self-righteous indignation.

"How can anyone from the drinks industry fund such a campaign?" was the clichéd shout. The theory being that it is against the interests of a drinks giant to take action against any form of the consumption of their product.

It's an entirely fallacious theory.

Any clever company will assess risks to its business. Problem drinking is a risk to a drinks giant for a simple reason; if booze gets a bad enough name, if too many streets run with sick, if too many A+E's fill with injuries, if too many jails get stuffed with public order offenders, eventually public pressure will force the Government to legislate.

And legislation could take any form. It could limit supply, tighten opening hours, increase cost or tax profits. All bad things from Diageo's perspective. If they can stop binge drinking, then they might well be acting in their own corporate interests.

Because let's be clear, there are many jurisdictions around the world where Diageo operates, advertises and sells which are not plagued with the alcohol problems we have here. It is possible for drinks companies to promote their products and make healthy profits without a national culture of problem drinking.

I'm no apologist for Diageo. I've written repeatedly in the Herald about Arthur's Day being a disgraceful sham created to allow a UK-based multinational make money from a legacy of once being an Irish company.

But sometimes corporate self interest overlaps with commercial interests. Guinness has long been a good example of that happening - the buildings built by the Iveagh trust back in the day undoubtedly allowed Guinness employees to live healthier lives. Altruism and self interest aligning.


If people actually want to make a difference to our drinking culture, how about attacking some real acts of corporate smoke and mirrors. Like MEAS. Mature Enjoyment of Alcohol in Society.

It is an offshoot of the drinks industry, partly responsible for the ridiculous 'drinkaware' campaigns.

MEAS sprung into existence around the time of the last major public push to do something about Ireland's alcohol problem. Only MEAS didn't limit itself to 'binge drinking'.

It happily rooted itself in everything related to alcohol from public policy to public health.

Want a real righteous bandwagon to jump on? Pick the one with MEAS on the side.


Pointless speculation about why this plane crashed serves no good purpose

The plane crash in the Alps brings to mind a (possibly apocryphal) story about a newspaper editor 100 years ago asking an astronomer to write a piece on whether or not there was life on Mars.

The astronomer said nobody knew. The editor asked him to provide 1000 words on the subject. Several hours later he received the astronomer's work: the words 'nobody knows' written 500 times.

So it is with the plane crash. Acres of words have been written, all saying 'nobody knows'.

It could have been explosive decompression. It could have been oxygen hypoxia.

The Germanwings plane

It could have been a stall. It could have been catastrophic mechanical failure. It could have been controlled flight into terrain.

It could have been pretty much anything that has ever caused a crash. But at this point we don't have the slightest clue.

And the speculation is not healthy. It makes it seem like aviation disasters are common. Thankfully they are not.

In fact, one commentator put it in perspective beautifully.

If we had the same accident rates as 1973 with today's number of planes, one commercial jet-liner would crash every 41 hours. Accidents now are extraordinarily rare, multi-causal usually complicated.

So let's cool the speculation and accept that at this point, no matter how many times you guess at the cause, nobody knows.

Sorry was hardest word for Jeremy

So the BBC has turfed out Clarkson. Loads of people will now shout for him to be re-appointed. And other broadcasters will probably find they have deep pockets stuffed with cash to coax him to join them.

Jeremy Clarkson

Neither his fans nor his potential employers should be so forgiving. Clarkson is a rich man.

 And on Top Gear he was a powerful man. And from his position of wealth and power he, according to the BBC, punched and verbally abused a colleague. Having done so he showed not the slightest indication of sorry or culpability.

There comes a point when support should fall away - for most reasonable people that point comes when you are brashly unable to accept responsibility.

Gods of sport may answer our prayers

The legend that is Henry Shefflin is retiring. In his speech to the media in Langtons in Kilkenny he said that he felt that now was the right time.

Henry Shefflin

With 11 All-stars, 10 All Irelands, and as a member of the reigning club and county All-Ireland champion teams, it's hard to think of a more apt moment for him to depart. It makes you think, would it be possible that the sports gods are smiling on legends of the game? And if so, what are the chances those gods would facilitate Paul O'Connell (inset) holding a press conference in a Limerick hotel, later this year, as a member of the team that has back to back Six Nations...and a World Cup?

The only thing that could be better would be if he announced at that press conference that he was playing on, and he'd heard from Henry, who says he's planning to do a Paul Galvin...

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