Did you know;?
(1) 40% of Fianna Fail T.D.s are publicans.
(2) The drink(pub) licence stranglehold,they control, represents the largest monopoly in the State.
(3) The price at which these licences change hands reflects the gross hypocrisy of these elected rural T.Ds. They represent a cartel of individuals who organize to manipulate,dominate and effectively control the pricing structure, and the social and drinking habits, of 4 million citizens.
Irish teenage girls are already recognised as the heaviest drinkers of their peers in the European Union, mirroring the prevalence of youth binge-drinking here. The Minister for Foreign Affairs felt it necessary to warn young people awaiting their Leaving Cert exam results not to let the side down with boozy celebrations abroad. He said he was forever being informed by embassy personnel of bad conduct by the drunken Irish on holidays.
Britain and Ireland are the only two European countries where alcohol consumption continues to rise. Following reports this week that deaths from alcohol-linked causes have risen by 20% in Britain, Irish doctors have confirmed that the statistics are, more than likely, on the same upward curve in this country. Counsellors also caution that, while the media tends to focus on youth and female drinking, there is a growing problem with older people drinking in a lonelier, more anonymous society.
"We are in deep trouble," concluded Stephen Rowen, clinical director of the Rutland Centre in Dublin, after revealing that more than 60% of the centre's patients are women.
Alcoholism has devastating consequences for individual sufferers and their families. Depression, anxiety, suicide, marriage break-down, criminal behaviour, unemployment and poverty are all potential side-effects, in addition to the myriad physical illnesses associated with it. The community too pays a high price. Alcohol misuse costs the economy more than €2.7 billion a year (nearly two per cent of GDP) in lost productivity, crime, accidents and health care.
"People are no closer to the acceptance of alcoholism as a disease than they were when this centre opened in 1978," says John Donohoe, senior counsellor at the Hanly Centre in Dun Laoghaire. "The focus now is all on drugs because drugs are the sexy scene. It goes without saying that drink is the biggest drug of all but, of course, the Government gets a lot of money from alcohol sales. A programme on television the other night said that something like 40% of backbenchers are publicans."
That programme was RTE's Rip-Off Republic which successfully set out to debunk the theory that densely pub-populated areas, like Athy, Co Kildare, produce more alcoholics. On the contrary, Dublin - with 35% of the national population but only nine per cent of its licences - has major drink problems. The programme also reported that a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc starting out life at a cost of €2.05, costs €24 in Irish restaurants.
When TDs return to the Dail after their three-month summer holidays, one of the prickliest issues awaiting them will be Michael McDowell's proposed liberalisation of the licensing laws by extending more freedom to the restaurant sector. Despite his public defeat by Fianna Fail in his attempt to establish cafe bars and his fence-mending visit to a Fianna Fail parliamentary party meeting before the summer recess to discuss the drinks industry, the auguries are not good. It has been reported that anonymous sources are expressing their determination to fight any attempt by the Justice Minister to widen restaurants' licences.
With an Exchequer tax-take of €2.1 billion-a-year from alcohol sales, the vintners' lobby is cash-rich and powerful. Just how lucrative is the industry is reflected in the prices fetched in pub sales, like the €7.5 million paid for the Queen's in Dalkey, Co Dublin two years ago. This week, a chain of pubs and restaurants owned by Louis Fitzgerald announced a near doubling of its pretax profits to €8.38 million last year. Sales amounted to €49.84 million in its 22 outlets, the most recently acquired being the €5.8 million Stag's Head in Dublin in May.
The 4 star clarion Hotel opened in August 2005,in Dublins Docklands,and was obliged to offer free alcohol to guests while it was awaiting legalities arising from its very costly purchase of a drinking licence from one lucky Cork based lucky Fianna Fail backbencher,(for an undisclosed sum). These 'country' licences are openly traded for millions of Euros,because of their 'exchange' value for a licence in Dublin city,where a restrictive cartel style licencing system has blocked new pubs, under successive Fianna Fail administrations,for decades.The way the system works is that businessmen in cities like Dublin where the demand for alcohol licences for new hotels etc is constantly increasing, they must buy a profitless little business from one of the many pubs located in Cork or some one horse town in rural Ireland.They then apply to cancel this restrictive practice piece of paper, therby obtaining the right to 'transfer' the alcohol licence to another location. Essentially a form of blackmail which enriches every two bit Fianna Fail T.D. crony across the land of Ireland. Meanwhile Celia Larkin & co are snug in their new Consumer Protection Authority- giving the grocery stores hassle !... and investigating God knows what else. You could not make this stuff up.!!
Meanwhile,in July,2005, a retired Mayo coroner and Crossmolina GP, Dr Michael J Loftus, denounced State inaction on alcohol misuse, accusing the Government of handing responsibility for public health education to the industry itself. He said that, if tobacco companies were given the same free hand, outdoor advertisements would be warning 'Don't let nicotine spoil the fun of a good smoke'.
He lamented that the report of the Strategic Task Force on Alcohol published last September and the National Alcohol Policy (1996) had been left to gather dust. It was, he said, the same fate that befell the European Alcohol Action Plan 2000-2005, a blueprint endorsed in September 1999 by the World Health Organisation's European regional committee, of which Ireland is a member.
Another eminent psychiatrist, Dr Patrick Tubridy, retired medical director of St John of God's treatment centre, has called for the Irish National Council on Alcoholism to be re-established. The council was set up about 30 years ago to disseminate information on the numbers of people being hospitalised .Dublins drink palaces will continue to prosper. Overpriced restaurants will be allowed to serve you a glass of wine- but only if you also fork out 50 Euros for a meal.The publicans are safe,for now.
EACH garda in the country only brings one drink driver a year to their station on average.
Just a quarter of these receive convictions, shock new figures reveal.
Drink driving is linked to 40pc of fatal and serious injury crashes on our roads.
The figures highlight the fact that tens of thousands of drink drivers nationwide are endangering their lives and those of other road users because of the hopelessly inadequate number of garda roadside checks.
They show that just 12,000 drink driving prosecutions were brought on average every year for the past three years.
There are 12,000 gardai and 12,000 pubs. !
Only 12,300 were arrested for drink driving, but just 3,060 were convicted.The tip of an iceberg.
So in another great escape scandal, only one person on average leaving each pub in the country will be nabbed,each year for leaving the lounge bar drunk and getting behind the wheel.
Gardai argue that arrests are up, but in reality they are minuscule compared to the numbers drink driving and, according to Fine Gael yesterday, this sends out a message that the chances of being caught are low.
Early 2006,We had more entertainment from the Martin Cullen Show, and poor Gay Byrne- who has been wheeled out of retirement ( "The Fianna Fail Late Late Show"?) to patrol the streets of Dublin on his high powered motorbike machine searching for those elusive garda checkpoints.!
A grandiose press function has declared new powers for Gardai to do random breath tests,(although the majority of those being tested at present either escape penalties with the aid of a good solicitor.! or for some reason the case is never pursued in court?)
Now if Martin had reversed his plans and privatized random breathtesting, leaving the speed cameras to the Gardai(and the McDowell fusiliers)we would believe that the Soldiers of Destiny were moving beyond the propaganda and doing our citizens,and the state "some service' at last.! after all the car clampers have done a marvellously efficient job.Nobody leaves a car in the wrong location in Dublin for even 30 seconds.if they do it will cost them dearly.!
For more on this much discussed topic I refer you to: http://www.soldiersofdestiny.org/tddrinklobbyscandal.htm
NEARLY 70 ministers, TDs and senators "ganged up" on Justice Minister Michael McDowell to kill his controversial cafe bars plan, the Irish Independent has learned.
Members of the Dail and Senate sent 252 pages of correspondence to the minister outlining the opposition of publicans and anti-alcohol groups to his proposals aimed at curtailing binge drinking.
Agriculture Minister Mary Coughlan was particularly blatant in her objections. In a letter, written on Department of Agriculture notepaper, Ms Coughlan said that after meeting with vintners in her constituency, she believed there was "absolutely no support" for the cafe bars proposal. !!
The chairman of the Commission on Liquor Licensing, Gordon Holmes, said that self-interest and the influence of publicans over TDs had brought down the cafe bars plan.
"I would hope that sectoral interest would not overrule the public interest. On this occasion, I think it has," Mr Holmes said.
The episode casts doubt on the Government's commitment to dealing with the problems caused by alcohol abuse - including the carnage on our roads.
Arising out of a series of reports from two state-appointed bodies, some changes have been introduced, but where they have required confrontation with the drinks industry, the Government has backed down on a number of crucial occasions, including:
* Plans to bring in new laws to protect children and adolescents from the effects of alcohol advertising were quietly dropped recently following a campaign of lobbying against them.
* A key recommendation of a report by the Strategic Task Force on Liquor Licensing was, instead, watered down to become a voluntary code of practice.
* The introduction of random breath testing was another crucial recommendation by the Task Force but so far the Government has shied away from it.
The u-turns recently sparked an accusation by the National Youth Federation that the Government was "effectively undermining" its own Task Force. "Is an alcohol strategy really worth much if the minute the industry speaks up and objects, you drop key recommendations?" asked Michael McLoughlin, a director of central services with the Youth Federation.
"It appears that the drinks industry is now in control of the agenda. Every time young people gather we are treated to lectures from politicians about drinking and bad behaviour - yet this is the Government's response."
The idea for the cafe bars came from the Commission on Liquor Licensing. The theory was that mixing food with drink would cut down on the level of binge drinking - a crucial influence on road accidents - and the growth of superpubs, which have been accused of causing public order problems. Publicans took particular issue with the idea.
There are just under 10,000 pub licences in the country but the distribution is far from even. Donegal, where Mary Coughlan lives, currently has a pub for every 270 people, while in Dublin there's a pub for every 1,380 people. For the publicans, the cafe bars would not only have created increased competition, they would have reduced the value of a pub licence.
The introduction of cafe bars effectively had the potential to burst the pub licence bubble and leave the publicans just like the taxi drivers when their market was deregulated.
In her letter to Michael McDowell, acquired under the Freedom of Information Act, Ms Coughlan disputed the whole value of the proposal. She claims she was just passing on the views of the vintners. "I recently met with our local vintners and a number of issues were raised which I feel we will have to discuss in due course," she wrote.
"Regarding a cafe bar, there is absolutely no support for it here locally. It cannot be policed, even existing licences are not policed and there does not seem to be any enthusiasm for same."
The presence within the Fianna Fail ranks of a half dozen TDs and senators who either are publicans themselves or have an interest in the pub trade doesn't help the claims that the party is impartial.
The party seems to take the view that it is members with a knowledge of, or interest in, pubs that are best equipped to deal with them.
The Fianna Fail Minister in charge of alcohol policy, Junior Health Minister Sean Power is a publican.
Laois-Offaly TD John Moloney, the chairman of a group within the parliamentary party drawing up a submission for Michael McDowell on the licensing laws, owns a pub.
One of the sternest critics of the proposal was Carlow-Kilkenny TD, John McGuinness, who owns the property where his brother runs a pub. Eddie Bohan, a senator since 1987, is a former President of the VFI and a former chairman of the Dublin Licensed Vintners.
Vintners' access to the Government throws doubt on its ability to deal comprehensively with alcohol abuse.
Mr McDowell is to press ahead with the Intoxicating Liquor Bill to streamline licensing laws. It will be interesting to see how far it goes.!
|December 2005, Kevin Myers wrote in the Irish Times:|
|At 2.35 in the morning on October 6th last year, the actor Sean McGinley drove through a red light at Mespil Road in Dublin. He was observed doing this by a splendid young garda named Laura Sheridan who followed him as far as Lansdowne Road. |
She then stopped him. She found that he smelt of alcohol and his eyes were bloodshot. She arrested him and took him to Store Street Garda Station where was put under the statutory 20-minute observation period to ensure he consumed nothing.
He was then taken to the Lion Intoxilyser breath-test machine where he gave a sample to Garda Cliff Harding. He was found to have a blood-alcohol ratio of 49 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath. The legal limit is 35 milligrams of alcohol. In other words, he was 40 per cent over the limit. Try spending 40 per cent more than you earn. Forty per cent is not a margin but a dimension.
Sean McGinley was in court last week, and what happened there was a triumph for the rule of lawyers, but not the rule of intended law. Moreover, it was a particular triumph of the peculiar legal culture of this country, which repeatedly exalts the "rights" of the accused over those of the entire community.
Under cross-examination, Garda Sheridan denied that she had written eight pages of notes in her notebook at Store Street Garda Station during the 20-minute period of observation. The accusation presumes that in a busy police station, every arresting officer is able to keep every arrested person under minute and unwavering personal scrutiny, meanwhile attending to absolutely no other duties.
Martin Dully, for the defendant, then argued that his client should have been under observation from the very moment he arrived in the station, not eight minutes after arriving. "He was therefore in unjustified detention for eight minutes." Eight minutes? Eight bloody minutes? Can this man be serious in presenting such an argument before the court, on a charge which is so very grave? Well, he can, actually - for we have repeatedly seen our courts turned into cats' cradles for lawyers, where abstruse and procedural lawyerly point has succeeded abstruse and procedural lawyerly point, so that no one outside the profession of law has the least understanding of what is going on. The result is a legal DNA molecule, a double helix of incomprehensibility which brings smiles to defending lawyers' faces, and looks of dumb, ox-like stupidity to ours.
However, in the McGinley case, Judge Mary Collins, rejected the Dully argument, declaring that she was satisfied that Garda Sheridan was attending to procedural matters. But in the diseased culture to which the profession of law has been reduced, it is more than possible that another judge might have ruled that the accused should have been under unbroken personal observation from the moment he entered the station. This is one of the busiest places in the entire Republic, where gardaí, of course, have nothing better than to pore fixedly over arrested persons, as if they were Dead Sea Scrolls.
But what happened next is too astounding for words. Judge Mary Collins ruled that just before the breath test was carried out, "an opinion should have been formed at that stage" whether or not Sean McGinley was under the influence of drink so as to be able to drive properly. It wasn't, so she therefore dismissed the case.
But an opinion had already been fully formed that he was drunk - back at Lansdowne Road, after he had gone through a red light, was stopped, reeked of alcohol and had red eyes. So the judge, in effect, was demanding that a further opinion should have been freshly formed about the accused's drunkenness at the very moment before he was breath-tested, and that the opinion gained at 2.35am was no longer valid about 40 minutes later.
Madam Judge, you may make sense of that; but I confess I cannot. Garda Sheridan caught and arrested a drunk driver, fair and square, found he was 40 per cent over the limit, processed the paperwork and brought the case to trial - no doubt at considerable cost to the State. But nonetheless, Sean McGinley has now walked free, to drive on our roads again.
So why on earth would members of An Garda Síochána bother enforcing the law? In their place, I wouldn't. Because once they do, they enter the Grand National of our legal system, where every single aspect of what they had done on the night of the arrest will be turned into a fiendish Beecher's Brook for them to cross in court. One stumble, they are down, and the accused walks free.
This is not justice in any meaningful sense. It is a parlour-game, played out to rules which no one outside the legal system understands. But we pay for this parlour game. We pay for the politicians to pass the laws, the gardaí to enforce them, and our courts to rule on the cases which result. The consequences of failure at any level are precisely what we've got: alone in western Europe, our roads deaths rise remorselessly.
So, is this actually an expression of our true national malaise? Are we afflicted with a moral fecklessness which absolves our political classes from meaningfully tackling the issue of gratuitous manslaughter? Indeed, was it a comparable ethical indolence which allowed this Republic to remain the operational base for Europe's most lethal terrorist group for an entire generation? This is a melancholy thought indeed - but maybe our appalling road-death statistics actually provide the most telling insight into the Irish national character.
FORMER chairman of the National Safety Council, Eddie Shaw, has blamed comments made by Transport Minster Martin Cullen as one of the main reasons for his shock resignation in December 2005.
In an exclusive interview with the Irish Examiner, Mr Shaw also accuses the Government of being "criminally negligent" over the lack of implementation of its own road safety policy.
The outspoken road safety campaigner said he took serious issue with accusations by Mr Cullen that he had "overstated" the Government’s failure to tackle the rising level of road deaths in the Republic.
Mr Shaw had consistently argued more than 140 lives could be saved a year if the Government implemented its own road safety strategy.
He resigned to accept responsibility for failing to convince the Government to invest in its own policy on road safety.