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Image / Editorial

‘In a public health emergency, why does so much of the post-pandemic talk revolve around drinking?’


By Amanda Cassidy
05th Jun 2021
‘In a public health emergency, why does so much of the post-pandemic talk revolve around drinking?’

No other European country is having the same public order challenges our capital city is experiencing, writes Amanda Cassidy

I come from a long line of publicans – four generations in fact. I appreciate the impact the past 18 months have had on the entire industry. I’ve seen it first-hand.

I’m also excited for pubs and restaurants to reopen, the buzz of ‘normal’ life good for the soul after the dark period that we’ve all suffered.

The idea of sitting somewhere with a glass of something cool, chatting with friends is indescribably wonderful, especially after job losses, bereavements, and the collective trauma of the virus that’s been stalking us since March 2020.

National obsession

But why does every conversation, every radio segment, every political debate have to revolve around when and where we can drink again?

Perhaps it’s a different drinking culture -the binge drink phenomenon we share with our British cousins. We go on the lash for weddings, births, deaths, graduations, birthdays, christenings, long weekends, communions, Christmas, Easter, the end of summer, the start of summer…

Perhaps it’s because many of our public representatives are former publicans, with a softer ear for powerful lobbying groups, the drinks industry, and the public.

Maybe it’s because there isn’t much else in the way of social life without booze. Or maybe the depiction of the “Orish” in movies is increasingly close to home?

Misguided

The problem is that the same weight isn’t been given to things like reopening gyms, allowing partners to accompany pregnant women to their scans, the cancer screening delays that will cost lives, elderly men and women who haven’t maintained their fitness? Some are still too afraid to leave their homes despite being vaccinated.

If only the outrage over bins and lack of toilets (specifically for outdoor drinking) was focused on having a non-functioning children’s hospital or having schools in prefabs for 30 plus years. The on-air time for these problems has been squeezed by the when-can-we-go-drinking-again debate. It doesn’t seem right.

This was supposed to be the chance to do something different, something better. Innovation was the catch-cry during the lockdown stage of the pandemic. And while many of us have used this time to pivot or enhance our lives, what was left behind after the great big street fest of the past few weekends is a pretty dismal reflection of that.

Celebrating being with friends again is vital. But when it turns into a street brawl and our streets are left strewn with rubbish, it’s time to realise something isn’t working. And what’s broken won’t be necesssarily fixed by opening the bars.

All of us, including the country’s youth, deserve to meet friends, have a drink, and let off steam, but the problem is that no true long-term changes have been made to our cities or our towns in the meantime.

Rubbish

Many public plazas, which are for the most part, dull and badly designed, are closed. We have no true social spaces in our towns and villages. In countries where the weather is too hot, large covered shelters are designed to allow citizens to enjoy their outdoor space in all weathers. Why not have such shelters here?

Concrete squares without facilities like bins and toilets are ugly and useless. Instead of wondering when we can go out to the beer garden, why aren’t we demanding better facilities for our youth in general? Things that are pretty as well as functional, dedicated areas for the country’s citizens to enjoy without being forced into commercial spaces too.

It wouldn’t take much – a few more benches, skate parks, covered playgrounds, toilets where you won’t fear for your life going in alone…

Having understood the value of community and togetherness in the past year or so, why is there still nowhere safe and specifically designed for our elderly to congregate either. Places to alieviate loneliness without having to fear for lack of toilets or anti-social behaviour?

This is why we can’t have nice things. This is also why we can’t have bins and toilets according to Dublin city council

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly today described the public order offenses in Dublin overnight as “thuggish” and completely unacceptable” The Minister told RTÉ that “nobody has the right to attack our garda, absolutely nobody … it in no way represents our country.”

But it does in a way, represent our country.

The fact that a few always spoil it for so many. That one or two drinks have to be 10 to make it a good night out. It is one massive illustration of how so many of us have nowhere to go and nothing to do except go drinking.

This is why we can’t have nice things. This is also why we can’t have bins and toilets according to Dublin city council. It’s time to reflect on the regression of Irish society, on the lack of imagination when it comes to public services for the people, and maybe even why the country’s main national hobby continues to be drinking.

A collective rethink is overdue.

Image via Irish Mirror