Dispelling Irish Stereotypes: Why Are All the Irish Drunks?
Tuesday, July 16th, 2013 | By EMisiaszek
Arguably, the most fun you’ll ever have in Ireland is planning your Irish pub tour. You and a gaggle of friends will happily pop from place to place appreciating the drinking culture that comprises so much of Ireland.
Along the way of your Irish pub tour it will probably cross your mind, “Why are all the Irish drunks?” Ok, so we say this tongue in cheek. Of course not all Irish are drunks — that’s why we decided to broach this Irish stereotype in the first place, dear reader.
Synopsis of Ireland as a pub culture
Irish pub tours are fun, plain and simple. As a pub culture, the Irish have made pubs the epicenter of their community. You aren’t just going to visit bars on your Irish pub tour; you’re going to learn a diverse and interesting history about popular social gathering places.
Further, since the weather in Ireland stays cold about eight months of the year, pubs are a social hotspot for locals. Folks don’t necessarily come out to have a drink, either. Many simply enjoy traditional Irish food and the camaraderie of the pub atmosphere.
During your Irish pub tour, pay attention to how welcome you are to actually stay as long as you like. It’s quite different than a North American bar where you are expected to leave after your eat, right?
Now, knowing the facts about how Ireland earned its reputation as a country of drunks, however, is a whole other story. And we love a good story.
History of drinking in Ireland
Remember that in the history of Ireland, it was not unusual for many Irish families to be dispossessed from their land again and again as militant forces or exchanges or political power overtook their homes and lands.
Along the way, many Irish families began to brew an alcohol called poteen. The homemade Irish whiskey was most popular with the peasant classes since they suffered the most with death, disease, displacement and famine.
As a contributing factor, in the early part of the 19th century, primogeniture legislation was introduced, granting a family’s land ownership to the firstborn male. To prove their manhood, many of the bachelors, as the younger, dispossessed sons were called, took to heavy drinking to prove their strength and stamina.
Then again, when the Great Famine struck from 1845 to 1852, there was no other way for the Irish to cope with their sadness and loss. Sadly, many turned to alcohol. A forced migration of over two million Irish emigrants before and after the famine further contributed to their sense of loss.
As time progressed into the 21st century, Ireland has seen shocking unemployment rates accompanied by political unrest. Their drinking issues peaked in 2001 when it was estimated by the economist Anthony Foley that the Irish drank 14.4 liters of pure alcohol per year (per person).
As of 2012, however, the number has dropped to 11.6 liters. Further, only one in five Irish actually drink alcohol. (Compare that with one in two cottages which once contained a poteen pot for making whiskey. Oh, and 9.8 liters per year in 1987 was the record low, if you’re wondering.)
Summing up the stereotype
Recent surveys, according to Alcohol Action Ireland, show that 25% of drinkers reported binging on alcohol at least once a week. Of the 26 countries that comprise the European Union, Ireland ranks as the highest for per capita consumption of alcohol.
While the pub culture of Ireland continues to dominate, the country’s reputation as heavy drinkers has started to subside. Simply, fewer Irish people drink, but, according to statistics, those who do drink, drink heavily.
With educational campaigns, Ireland is slowly but surely changing the history of how alcohol is affecting the nation. Your Irish pub tour will definitely show you just how relevant alcohol awareness has become.
More importantly, an Irish pub tour will open your eyes to the incredible history of pubs in Ireland as a gathering place for everyone and anyone to come enjoy a good tall tale and a delectable bite to eat, not just a watering hole for thirsty locals.
So, while we couldn’t exactly dispel the stereotype that all the Irish are drunks completely (since statistically, 1 in 5 are drinkers and 25% of them binge drink), we hope you learned a little bit about the drinking culture in Ireland and can appreciate the pubs as places of congregation and social gatherings rather than places of drunken debauchery.