Arthur's Day

‘What a difference a day makes.’ This sounds archaic, but this week a new movement showed up in Ireland, one I never thought would see the light of day.

On Thursday, thousands, if not millions of people will toast to Arthur Guinness at exactly 17:59 (or 5:59pm) on Arthur’s Day. In 1759, the Guinness brewery was set up and this what thousands of people (think they) will toast to.

Not so however. Guinness, once purebred Irish, is now in the hands of Diageo, which has its headquarters in London and was “formed in 1997 from the merger of Guinness and Grand Metropolitan.” The name Diageo is the combination of a Latin and Greek word, referring to the company “giving pleasure every day, everywhere.”

That pleasure is waning though. Reason? Doctors are now calling Arthur’s Day “an event organised by drinks manufacturer Diageo, saying it promotes heavy drinking and is irresponsible.” The criticism comes after singer Christy Moore wrote a song describing the event as an “alcoholiday.”

On Arthur’s Day 2012, 30% more calls to emergency services were made because of alcohol abuse, and everything related to it like anti-social behaviour. In a country where alcoholism is rife and some people refuse to see the damage binge drinking and/or alcoholism can do, Diageo is hoping to build more bridges between their Guinness brand and people having a good time and acknowledged that the aim of Arthur’s Day is to increase consumption.

Director of the Liver Disease Centre in the Mater Hospital, said “deaths relating to cirrhosis of the liver have doubled between 1994 and 2008, and that hospital admissions for alcoholic liver disease almost doubled between 1995 and 2007. Alcohol is more affordable than ever. Alcohol is more acceptable than ever. Alcohol is more available than ever,” he said. “We need measures to address this epidemic. Where does Arthur’s Day fit into all of this?”

“Ah, it’s just a bit of fun,” a friend said when I told her about anti-Arthur’s Day protests today. However, most addictions start by “being a bit of fun,” whether it is alcohol, drugs, sex or whatnot. It “being a bit of fun” is therefore not to be taken lightly.

But doctors are not the only ones who started seeing more than a well-performed act behind what Arthur’s Day truly is: a marketing scam trying to get as many people on Guinness as possible. The Huffington Post wrote this article about it “You may like to think that you are honouring a well-loved Dubliner, but in fact you have been manipulated into helping to create further millions for Diageo’s already wealthy shareholders.

Diageo is the British company which owns Guinness, along with Smirnoff, Baileys, Johnny Walker, and many other well-known brands of booze. It employs very clever marketing people and expends vast sums on advertising. That’s how it has managed to convince millions worldwide to jump around drinking Guinness on “Arthur’s Day” each year. Every September since 2009, Guinness drinkers have been expected to toast to the memory of Arthur Guinness at 17:59 — in deference to 1759, the year when the Guinness Brewery was established. Conveniently, this is also the time when thirsty office workers clock out.”

Facebook pages were also created in no time this week, asking people to ‘Boycott Arthur’s Day.” In its description, BAD says this: “Arthur’s Day’ is a marketing scam, piggybacking on Ireland’s strong cultural heritage and identity in order to flog a river of their booze under the guise of a ‘cultural’ event. But of course we know that’s a lie. So, we invite you this Sept 26th to Boycott Arthur’s Day and do something life affirming instead.”

In the past I blogged about Ireland’s relationship to alcohol, and my stance has not changed since then. In my opinion – which I am totally free to have, just like people who love getting a pint of Guinness – is that alcohol ruins more than the person drinking. Family, friends, colleagues and other people have to tread softly, trying to avoid the person abusing it, drinking even more. Friendly relations turn sour, trust disappears and hurt, anger and helplessness sets in. And it all started with “having just one, just for a bit of fun.”

Yet, Diageo believes all this is OK. What they thought would be a great cultural event in its first year in 2009, has now become a total rip off, in my view predominantly aimed at tourists wanting to “experience” Ireland by visiting the Guinness brewery and buying into a foreign brand, owned by someone else than the Guinnesses.

It is truly remarkable, and sad, that Ireland’s top attraction is the Guinness brewery. Of all the things magnificent, wonderful and breathtakingly beautiful in Ireland, a brewery tops the charts. If you want to “experience” Ireland, go to its mountains, beaches, small towns and talk to people about what Ireland really is about. That is a cultural experience. Not a Guinness bottle lying discarded on the ground in front of the pub.

After living here 11 years now, I have faced the good and the bad about Ireland, and what I learned is that its culture is not U2, not Guinness, not a pub or a 12h binge drinking fest. Its soul got sold to Guinness in a Celtic Tiger era that screamed for “more, more, more!”

It is time for Ireland to cut its ties with the term ‘drinking culture’ (in fact, Ireland must be the only country in the world to have such a term). It’s time to reclaim Ireland’s true culture: its history, nature and people. dFor more on this, please read:

 © WVE and Ireland, MS and Me, 2011-2013. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to WVE and Ireland, MS and Me with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


3 thoughts on “Arthur's Day

    1. I love Irish pubs also, preferably before the drunk crowd starts getting to me. It’s just sad that so many lives are destroyed because of it.

      Just like the GAA is in Irish people’s psyche, so is the idea that having a few drinks will not hurt them. I’ve tried talking with Irish friends about it but they just don’t want to know. Instead, they tell me to lighten up a little :D)


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