Thus guest expert blog post is written by Bernard Coffey.
Historians often disagree on interpretations of the past, but there is universal consensus that Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was not a bartender. One might think he was though judging from the alcohol industry’s annual exploitation of what originated centuries ago as a commemoration of the arrival of Christianity in Ireland.
St. Patrick’s Day is sadly now one of the top binge and underage alcohol consumption days of the year, with any number of public health statistics and accounts of alcohol induced disorder and violence available to document that highly dubious distinction.
I identify as an Irish-American, and years ago I began my ultimately successful struggle to escape alcohol dependence. I am thrilled that the annual Sober St. Patrick’s Day (SSPD) event is this year celebrating its tenth anniversary. This wonderful happening, which because of the pandemic will this year be entirely online, launched in New York City a decade ago and has since been replicated in various other locales. The SSPD festivities provide families with children, as well as individuals in recovery, and many other people who are sober or sober curious a wonderful opportunity every March to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in an alcohol-free setting.
The principal motto associated with Sober St. Patrick’s Day is “Reclaim the Day.” I think that everyone is free to celebrate whatever occasion, like St. Patrick’s Day, in whatever way they feel suits them and their community. But St. Patrick’s Day really needs to be reclaimed from the behemoth alcohol industry. There is plenty of evidence that the only “green” treasured by the alcohol industry on St. Patrick’s Day is the color of the cash flowing into its coffers as a result of the spike in alcohol sales and binge alcohol use, with the public perception of Irish culture defamed in the process.
“Diageo is of course not alone in the annual defilement of this special Irish holiday.”Bernard Coffey
For just one of many examples, the Guinness brand is heavily marketed and promoted in the lead up to St. Patrick’s Day. The purveyors of Guinness would have you believe that there is nothing more Irish than hoisting several pints of their stout on St. Patrick’s Day. Sorry lads and lassies, but although Guinness originated in Ireland the brand was years ago swallowed up by the international alcohol conglomerate Diageo headquartered in London, of all places. Those of you who know Irish history recognize the irony in that little geographic tidbit.
Diageo is of course not alone in the annual defilement of this special Irish holiday, but is instead joined by many of its competitors in the alcohol industry in heavily promoting consumption of their intoxicants as an indispensable way of celebrating St. Patricks’ Day.
Anyone who grew up Irish has heard the legend about Saint Patrick banishing snakes from Ireland. If he were to come back to us now, my sense is that his first order of business would be casting the irresponsible and serpentine greed of the alcohol industry away from the annual holiday that now bears his name.