Should Ireland call time on Arthur’s Day?

Tomorrow is Arthur’s Day and while many people in Ireland and across the world are looking forward to marking it with a pint of Guinness, there are a growing number of dissenting voices hoping to call time on the celebrations.

Guinness copyright Ireland Calling

Some health campaigners say it encourages excessive drinking and puts huge strain on hospitals.

Arthur’s Day is a tradition that was started in 2009 by Guinness owners Diageo. People celebrated the 250th anniversary of the Arthur Guinness brewery by drinking a pint of the drink at 5.59pm. That is a nod to the year the brewery opened, 1759.

There were music events and festivals in cities across the world including Dublin, New York, and Kuala Lumpa. It was a big success and has become a tradition that has been repeated every year since.

Music’s biggest stars

In the previous four years some of the biggest names in Irish, British and American music have performed at Arthur’s Day events.

Revellers have been able to see artists like Tom Jones, Kasabian, Black Eyed Peas, Manic Street Preachers, Brandon Flowers, Biffy Clyro, Scissor Sisters, Seasick Steve, as well as top Irish stars like Horslips, Sharon Shannon, Mundy, The Undertones, Ash, The High Kings, Westlife, The Script and Snow Patrol at various events across the world.

It would seem that the event has captured the public’s imagination and has been taken up in good spirits.

Calls to boycott Arthur’s Day

However, there is a darker side to the celebrations that is causing many people to call for the day to be boycotted.
There are claims that it encourages people to drink irresponsibly. The Royal College of Physicians Ireland say there is a 30% rise in the number of ambulance call outs on Arthur’s Day.

There has also been a significant increase in the number of patients suffering with liver damage over the past decade. Campaigners say this is the result of the ‘cheap booze’ culture that Arthur’s Day helps to reinforce.

It isn’t just politicians and health experts who oppose Arthur’s Day. High profile Irish singers like the Waterboys’ Mike Scott have also spoken out against it. Christy Moore has recorded a song that heavily criticises Diageo for targeting young people.

Nicknamed ‘Diageo Day’

Arthur’s Day has been dubbed ‘Diageo Day’ to highlight the fact that the Guinness owners are the people with most to gain financially from the celebrations. The fact that Arthur’s Day has been held on a Thursday every year rather than having a specific date certainly fuels these claims.

Thursday is traditionally ‘student night’ in most cities. Students are a great target group as many are young people who like to spend their money in bars and don’t always need to worry about an early Friday morning start.

Diageo’s annual profits are around €3bn and they are accused of profiting from a culture in Ireland that has seen people taking up drinking at ever decreasing ages. Nearly 10% of bed days in hospitals are down to alcohol and drink is also a contributory factor in half of all suicides in Ireland.