Amateur drinkers will be cramming into Irish pubs the world over tonight to slurp Guinness and neck whiskey (with an e) in honour of St Patrick.
But the citizens of the Emerald Isle will be as likely to toast their patron saint with a full-bodied Shiraz or a well-oaked Chardonnay, shocking research revealed this week.
An analysis of Irish drinking habits by the Irish Independent claims that consumption of beer, cider, spirits and sparkling wine have plummeted since the financial crisis hit the country almost 10 years ago.
The paper added that the average Irish adult consumed a touch over 11 litres of pure alcohol in 2015, a shocking 0.7 per cent drop on the previous year, but still almost double the world average of 6.2 litres.
Meanwhile, it continued, the population of the Republic quaffed 83.9 million litres of wine – three million more than it was downing at the height of the economic boom.
The report goes on to detail how beer sales are down 18 per cent since the peak, meaning the country that invented Guinness chugs its way through 1oo million fewer litres of beer a year – barely 22 litres a head for each of the 4.6 million citizens. An amount that would barely keep the population properly hydrated, we think you'll agree.
And it’s not like they’re making up the difference in spirits – consumption of which have plummeted to a barely there 7.2 million litres, compared to an extremely merry 9.7 million in 2002. That’s barely two bottles of the hard stuff for every man woman and child.
It's clearly nothing to celebrate, as sparkling wine sales have also been slashed, to 1.5 million litres, compared to 2.3 million in 2007 – a mere third of a litre a year.
It’s been left to wine to make up the difference, with Irish consumption hitting 18.2 litres per head.
Of course, it may be that’s purely a function of increased attendance at Mass. In fact, we’re sure it must be. It can’t that the population of the land of Behan, Joyce, and (arguably) Shane Magowan, have gone all French on us. Can it?
Just to allay our fears we looked for a comment from the Irish Cheese Board on whether the population was aping their Gallic (not Gaelic) EU partners by combining their increased wine intake with a taste for smelly fermented cow juice. Thankfully it appears there is no such organisation.
In the meantime, the Alcohol Industry Group of Ireland did put out a statement on the figures which it carefully neglected to post on its website. This drew an immediate riposte from Alchohol Action Ireland, saying that “At our current level of 11 litres, we not only retain very high levels of alcohol consumption, but our culture of binge drinking exacerbates the harm.”
Which shows that even if the Irish have turned their backs not just on religion, but on the health-giving qualities of porter and whiskey (with an e) in favour of fermented grape juice, they still retain the ability to get into a public row at the drop of a Kiss Me I’m Irish hat.
Happy St Patrick's Day. ®