Irish minister attacks Diageo for ‘pseudo’ Guinness national holiday

By Ben BOUCKLEY contact

- Last updated on GMT

Picture Credit: Rupert Ganzer/Flickr
Picture Credit: Rupert Ganzer/Flickr

Related tags: Drinking culture, Alcoholism, Guinness

Irish minister Alex White has attacked Diageo for cynical marketing of its annual ‘Arthur’s Day’ Guinness event and insists it worsens the nation’s problems with over-consumption of alcohol.

But the firm insists to BeverageDaily.com that it markets the September 26-27 event properly, pushing a strong responsible drinking message and fighting alcohol misuse.

Minister of state with responsibility for alcohol and drugs, Alex White, yesterday criticized Arthur’s Day – organized by Diageo in 2009 to celebrate the invention of Guinness – as a “pseudo national holiday”​ invented for marketing purposes “especially to young people – thereby stimulating greater consumption of alcohol”.

Calls for ambulances rose 30% during last year’s event in Ireland, White added, while A&E departments in hospitals and Garda (police) stations suffered from public drunkenness and alcohol-related harm.

Alcohol-related death rates rise

The Royal College of Physicians Ireland (RCPI) warned that alcohol illness levels in Ireland have reached epidemic levels in a public talk entitled ‘Who’s Calling the Shots?’ last night.

Professor Frank Murray, chair of the RCPI’s Alcohol Policy Group cited increasing death rates from cirrhosis and increasing hospital admission rates for young women that “tell a story of a bitterly unhappy relationship between the Irish and alcohol”.

Liver specialist Dr Stephen Stewart (who spoke at yesterday’s event) told the Irish Independent​ that alcohol was more affordable, more acceptable and more available than ever, and said he had treated patients in their 30s with end-stage liver disease who were unaware of the problem.

“We need measures to address this epidemic. Where does Arthur’s Day fit into all of this?”​ he asked the paper.

‘Raise a glass to Arthur!’

On a microsite dedicated to Arthur’s Day, Guinness markets the event as a way for Guinness fans from around the world to come together at music event and “raise a glass to Arthur and celebrate those who, like him, make great things happen”.

A Diageo spokesperson told BeverageDaily.com today that the group supported and showcased Irish musical talent by offering them a stage at 500+ music events; Guinness and local publicans also collaborated with young talents from the arts and food to transform pubs into “creative hubs”.

“Diageo implements a strong responsible drinking awareness campaign around Arthur’s Day and provides clear advice to pubs creating their own celebrations,” the spokesperson said.

Not only did Diageo promote responsible drinking through its support of drinkaware.ie and via social media, they added, it also encouraged participating pubs to give out free water and free food at larger ticketed venues.

Diageo committed to tackling misuse

The company says it co-operates closely with public authorities prior to the event and had partnerships with alcohol responsibility group MEAS and taxi app HAILO to ensure people get home safely.   

 “Diageo is committed to tackling misuse, over six years; more than €20m ($27m) has been invested in MEAS and www.drinkaware.ie, and research shows that it’s working,”​ the spokesperson said.

“We do not want alcohol to be mis-used, we do not condone alcohol misuse. We want to work with all stakeholders to address the issues that result in the misuse of alcohol. We want to work with government to find the effective solutions to reduce alcohol misuse further,”​ they added.

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