Critics saw the government’s dithering on a re-opening date for pubs as part of an anti-drink agenda
DO our eminent politicos live in a parallel universe – a sort of eternal Bermuda Triangle which is accessed only by election to Dáil Éireann?
Or, to put it another way, have they been sucked into a limitless black hole (the stuff of science fiction) in expectation of the day they will be reborn as ‘intelligent life’ and that in the Big Bang scenario they will tumble out, uttering political statements that make perfect sense?
Certainly, if it should ever be the case that our politicos return to reality, is it not incumbent on them to declare publicly their support for the continued existence of the pub (a punter in Dinty’s, suggested ‘they should accompany that commitment with an offer of free drinks all round’).
Because, the fact of the matter is that the pub must continue to be a friendly place, full of laughter and the auld song, banter, nonsense and the chat. The current pandemic must not be the ruse with which the anti-booze politicos wipe out the drinking den.
Indeed, the suspicion is growing that ideologically inspired demon-drink experts would like to give the final and decisive stroke to the traditional public house, already on its last legs.
But before that happens, let’s reinforce the fact that the pub always existed as a place deeply rooted in the local community. It was a hub for news, gossip, information and entertainment.
It also was somewhere to meet, chat, reflect on the vicissitudes of life, discuss sport, condemn the politicos (particularly those of Fianna Fáil) and, most importantly of all, it was seen as a sacred temple in which to snatch some private time. As such, it has to be protected.
Of course pubs also had their bad side: They could be centres of malice, envy, belittling criticism, vile language, drunkenness, ‘calumny and detraction’; but then, those aspects of the personality always were the things that made us what we are!
Yet, we can’t refrain from giving some credence to the rumour that it is the current government’s intention to ‘disappear’ the traditional public house and to cast it into a perpetual black-out.
Covid-19 is the reason, say the anti-alcohol medico / political / government ‘experts’ as they contemplate with a perverse sort of satisfaction the ‘verboten’ signs nailed to locked pub doors, while poisonous spiders mark out their space in the interior of the premises.
And we’re not joking. Born-again moralists (Greenies?) are said to be operating within the political system and attempting to redefine what is right and wrong about the code of behaviour in relation to public houses.
What’s certain is that they exert some influence on Taoiseach Mickey and Vlad with the result that our leaders seem prepared to carry out the most dramatic shift in licensing laws since Adam was a teetotaller.
We’re not joking! This is real. Drinking haunts will be divided into two categories: pubs that serve food (category A) and pubs that don’t serve food (category B).
Pubs in Category A will have to close at 11pm, while pubs in Category B may also soon have to close at 11pm. (Got that?).
As well, customers must be off the premises by 11pm, although bona fide ‘restaurants’ can stay open beyond 11pm for takeaways (drink?).
‘We don’t want restaurants operating as pubs,’ said Vlad. ‘What we want to stop is what was kind of happening, this was kind of happening, restaurants were almost operating as pubs!’ (See, clear as mud!).
Members of the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) and the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) are in despair at the almost incoherent instructions issued by The Lads who seem to be indifferent to the plight of 3,500 publicans across Ireland and their difficulty in understanding the government’s Byzantine thought processes relating to the sale of alcohol.
‘The majority of pubs across Ireland are still closed and they will now have to keep their doors shut for a minimum of 168 days which represents 46% of a year, the LVA and VFI responded in a joint statement.’
Taoiseach Mickey finally saw the light, with the promise that, all going well on the NPHET front, those same doors can once more open on September 21st.
So the facts are these: pubs were due to re-open on August 10th. That date was cancelled and changed to August 31st. That date also was cancelled. Now we have September 21st!
But that is contingent on statistics, damned statistics!
Just last week a contingent of very angry publicans from Monaghan, some of whom were enduring serious financial embarrassment, arrived at Mickey’s Dáil door and demanded certainty, information and leadership on the issue.
And Mickey informed them that the guidance would shortly be available. And, said our Taoiseach, ‘it will have conditions to protect lives and people’s health.’
Brill! Problem solved! What a guy!
And then there was this: the Mad magazine-style instruction that pubs and restaurants would have to keep a record of the content of all the meals served for 28 days. The intention was to provide inspectors with certifiable evidence that a ‘substantial’ meal was sold and not just a bag of chips washed down with 16 pints!
Criticism came hot and heavy from opposition parties, some government TDs, and the VFI which, when it finished laughing, described Mickey’s rules as ‘bureaucracy gone mad.’
A group of Fianna Fáil TDs, including Eamon Ó Cuiv, denounced the measures while Marc MacSharry described them as ‘Stasi-like’ – a powerful analogy, considering that the Stasi was a despised police agency in East Germany!
Despite the cascade of derision, Mickey explained that his new rules were designed to protect businesses, but somehow they were being misinterpreted.
SF leader Mary Lou McDonald had just one word to express her contempt for the updated regulations: ‘nuts’! Some publicans suggested Mickey’s government had ‘gone mad.’
And then there’s the conspiracy theory: Critics saw the government’s dithering on a re-opening date for pubs as part of an anti-drink agenda that’s being pushed by elements of the 34-strong National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET).
This is the body appointed to oversee the government’s response to Covid-19.
Stories are doing the rounds, scurrilous, needless to say, that some of the committee’s members have been prominent in campaigning against alcohol and smoking and that the current situation is a God-given chance to sneak in a bit of social engineering regarding the consumption of alcohol in this country. Never!