When the criticism over the Australian newspaper’s article on the ‘Punch drunk‘ Irish started, Himself and I just looked at one another.  Long a topic of debate and disagreement in this household, the “lazy stereotyping” of the Irish as ‘fond of a drink’ continues.  Though, how can you blame them?  The Irish ARE fond of a drink.  Yes, I know not everyone here drinks, and not everyone drinks to excess, but people drink a lot, spend inordinate amounts of time talking about their drinking exploits, and the government promotes the country as having a pub culture.  In fact, in a sense it is economically advantageous for the country to be seen as a place to drink.

This doesn’t negate the fact that a conversation should be had about the excessive drinking that occurs in Ireland.  It’s a health issue, as well as a societal issue due to its various secondary impacts.  Yet, here’s the rub.  If you don’t drink, what the HECK do you do?? It’s no fun being in a pub after a certain hour when you are not drinking.  Drunken, staggering, slurring, idiots are not entertaining.  In fact, they can be dangerous.  If you accidentally insult them or refuse to play along with their lame games, you risk verbal or perhaps physical repercussions…. or at the least, you are stuck baby-sitting them!  Even if you manage to stay far away from them, they interfere with your enjoyment of whatever musical gig is on.

It is nonsensical for the tourism industry to focus on a pub culture that simply doesn’t exist anymore.  I rarely see people going to the local pub to enjoy an evening sharing stories, catching up, and casually sipping a pint while enjoying music or song.  What I normally see are people putting back pints as fast as they can, then ordering shots.  Granted, there are pubs that cater to sports fans, and a good game on the television with a group of Gaelic or Rugby supports can enliven a pub with a sense of community and comradery that is unequalled.  Also, there are certainly pubs in obscure villages where the few locals gather to spend an evening.

If Ireland wants to go back in time (as the tourists certainly want it to) and have pubs that offer a sense of warm conviviality, a few things would help:

  • turn down the bloody music!  It’s impossible to talk when bad pop music is blaring.
  • bring back the snugs! I can’t tell you how many pubs I’ve been into that are gaping cavernous places clearly designed to accommodate large numbers of drunken, falling, belligerent bingers.
  • better yet…no piped music at all, or sound system.  This will encourage musicians to play, and maybe poets and storytellers to speak up….not to mention enabling you to hear your friends talk without them needing to scream.

While I’m at it… can there be some local government innovation to create diverse, interesting activities that don’t cost a fortune?! I realize the weather often sucks, but gosh…. aren’t there some other countries with equally unstable weather that offer varied, stimulating, and cultured entertainment?

Now, himself has a rather less jaded, and more on topic, view.  (cut me some slack…I came here from Austin.  Home of diverse hipness.) He believes the Irish created the stereotype, and brought it on themselves by revelling in the stereotype.  Though, he says proudly that if the Irish had won the world cup the whole country *would* be closed for a week and out in the streets drinking! Seriously though, he figures the Irish have nobody but themselves to blame because they sold themselves as a country that loves nothing more than the drink, the craic, and some gambling.

What about creating genuine walking trails that meander through cute villages? What about eradicating littering, and enforcing fines on those who do it? What about cultivating a sense of pride in place, beauty, and architecture? Ireland has picturesque countryside, some of the best farm fresh food around, and a rich cultural heritage of archaeological treasures.  Why not focus on those?  Put in place initiatives to stimulate farmer’s markets, manicured walks, frequent historical and scenic stops along designated walks.  What about an organized way-marked way for the Táin?  Who wouldn’t want to walk in the footsteps of Medbh, while traversing clearly posted and easily accessible trails, with easy access to villages with accommodation and farm fresh food?  Or better yet…. places for wild camping along the trail? Or heck…. re-create Cromwell’s bold (and evil) march, or some of the better known Rebel marches… like the one Red Hugh (wasn’t it him?) made from Ulster to Munster? There is SO MUCH more to Ireland than boozing!!

ok, I’ll be done with my rant now, but this had been a topic of conversation in our house lately.  What about yours??