herald

Monday 18 December 2017

We've stopped drinking tea and hit the bottle

"NO LONGER did you get a cup of tea when you called in to a neighbour — no, with the Celtic Tiger that day was gone. Now you’d get ‘Would you have a glass of wine?’"

Jon Kenny, who made the country laugh for years as half of d’Unbelievables with Pat Shortt, is back in action, slipping a satiric poignard between the ribs of Irish pretension on The John Murray Show.

Kenny harked nostalgically back to the days when a talented neighbour taught himself all he needed to become a superb mechanic. Not only that, but he stayed close to nature, kept a few calves in the other side of the garage.

“And not only that but he drew the dole as well. It was called multi-tasking. We invented multi-tasking. It was called survival. It was using your head. And I hope to God we haven’t lost it because we’re going to need it.”

“We are inundated with calls,” Pat Kenny told Professor Jim Lucey. “As soon as you started talking, the floodgates opened.” Medical Director of St Patrick's Hospital and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Trinity, Lucey talked to Today with Pat Kenny about alcoholism, living with an alcoholic and, ultimately, what we’re doing about it in Ireland.

He described the syndrome: the people around a problem drinker fade into unreality; it’s all about the drinker. “It’s one of the tragic truths that you hear so often with men and women who have alcohol problems. They’ll insist to you: ‘Oh, I have a problem — but it’s not affecting my children.’”

The country has changed, no doubt. All through the tiger years, Ireland has been drinking more and more. You’d scarcely open an Irish chicklit book without being washed away by women openingbottles of crisp, chilled white wine to share the fun.

Lucey was excoriating about Government inaction. We have huge rates of alcohol-related diseases like cirrhosis, and the greatest cause of death under 40 in this country is suicide, in many cases alcoholrelated.

We could cut our hospital spend by a fifth if we got a handle on alcohol, he said.

“We have the opposite of Prohibition. We have unlimited access,” he said. The volume of alcohol consumed in our country has increased by 40pc in a decade — while in Europe it grew just 2pc. In Ireland, oddly, we also have the highest proportion of individuals who don’t drink at all — so the amount drunk by drinkers is even larger.

“Essentially, the drink supply to a country is as political a decision as the money supply,” he said. “We’ve made the decision to increase the number of outlets where alcohol is available — from every village store to every filling station to extensions and late-night festivals.

“To a degree that allows the drinks industry to increase its sale of alcohol in this country 40pc beyond anywhere else in Europe.”

Henry McKean took the stairs from Newstalk to tell The Ian Dempsey Breakfast Show about his new series, Dream Debs. The debs is huge in a girl’s life nowadays, he says, it’s a mini-wedding.

He accompanied the squealers through the whole awful process — the €1,000 dress, the limo, the make-up, the tears — but emerged safe, presumably because his advanced age protected him.

In Henry’s day (he’s a tottering 32), things were simpler. He revealed that his girlfriend wore a classic black dress. He wore a kilt — and went commando.

John Murray Show, Radio 1, weekdays Today with Pat Kenny, Radio 1, weekdays Ian Dempsey Breakfast Show, Today FM, weekdays ENDS

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