I’m sure the pints will be on the house wherever Dermot Ahern chooses to drink tonight.
-- Twenty Major.
Today, as you're all no doubt aware, marks the coming into effect of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2008. This knee-jerk piece of legislation was rushed through the Oireachtas at break-neck speed in June and early July. One of its main provisions, starting this evening, is to close all off licences at 10pm, as well as preventing mixed-use traders from selling booze before 10am. Yes, if you need some drink outside of these hours, then the on-trade is your only option.
For you see, scientifically speaking, the compound C2H5OH manifests in one of two forms: as either good alcohol or bad alcohol. Good alcohol is that sold in pubs run by the nation's publicans, whose close ties to our politicians, both local and national (inasmuch as such a distinction exists here) place them far above reproach. Good alcohol binds communities together and is the lifeblood of our all-important tourist industry. It is, for the most part, native Irish alcohol, though the clarets offered by your favourite sommelier are also rich in good alcohol.
Bad alcohol, conversely, is what the off-trade deals in. The more accessible the alcohol, the worse it is. So while a specialist off licence may be viewed with some suspicion (except when loading cases of barolo into the back of one's X5), the main font from which our social ills spring is the bad alcohol sold in supermarkets, convenience stores and petrol stations. This is where the rampaging mobs refuel their reservoirs of anti-social behaviour; here is the starting point for those who don't know when to stop. Bad alcohol is tearing the country apart and it's about time our esteemed representatives in Leinster House did something about it so we can enjoy our pints in peace without being hassled on the way home from the pub by yobs who, having filled up on cheap cans from the suburban petrol stations, have inexplicably travelled to the city centre to cause trouble. A breath test will show their bloodstreams to be saturated in bad alcohol -- one never finds such human filth in pubs. Our upstanding landlords wouldn't have it.
As well as restricting the temporal availability of bad alcohol, the Act allows for further restrictions on acquiring it: with an additional stroke of the Minister for Justice's Mont Blanc it will be illegal to accumulate or spend supermarket loyalty points on alcohol, for instance, and promotions which discount or give away alcohol when drink is purchased -- buy-one-get-one-half-price type offers -- are off the cards as well. Indeed, any off licence promotional activity which Dermo regards as "likely to encourage the consumption of intoxicating liquor to an excessive extent" is right out. (One of the Republic's two whiskey distilleries is in the Minister's constituency. I wonder how they're taking all this?)
So, to mark the occasion of the opening of this brave new front in the War on Bad Alcohol, I'm opening a beer I bought extremely cheaply in a supermarket, my eye drawn by the striking (though poorly spelled) promotional display. It's Asahi lager, brewed in the UK from unspecified ingredients, but I suspect it's no stranger to rice.
It's 5% ABV and almost completely tasteless, but quite smooth with it, slipping down very easily when ice cold. I could have another one no problem. And, at this price, another after that.
And then all that remains is to call a taxi, make my way to Temple Bar, throw up on the cobbles and start a fight outside a kebab shop. That's how it works, isn't it? Minister?