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Row brewing over Arthur’s Day

Health experts and concerned politicians in Ireland are calling for Diageo to end the Guinness producer’s Arthur’s Day celebrations.

Begun five years ago, Arthur’s Day is meant to celebrate the founding of Guinness’ St James brewery in Dublin in 1759, with a series of parties around the world organised to begin at 17.59.

However, many say the event is increasingly leading to dangerous levels of drinking and health experts are calling for the event (which takes place this Thursday) to be stopped, pointing out that last year’s event saw a 30% increase in ambulance call outs and that 2,000 hospital beds were occupied with alcohol-related cases.

“With high rates of alcohol consumption and binge drinking, we don’t need another reason to drink,” Professor Frank Murray, chairman of the alcohol policy group of Ireland’s Royal College of Physicians, has said.

The minister of state for alcohol and drugs, Alex White, has also called the event “a pseudo-national holiday”, designed merely to market and sell Diageo products.

There has been a call in the Irish parliament, the Dáil, for an end to Arthur’s Day but the Irish Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, apparently refused to apportion any blame for alcohol abuse and said it was a wider cultural problem.

He said: “It doesn’t take any particular day to have a situation in accident and emergency wards around this country that are not very nice to put it mildly.

“When you consider that 2,000 beds in our country are occupied because of the consequences of drink, that is not because of any individual firm or any individual day it is part of our culture that needs to change.”

Diageo has defended Arthur’s Day saying it is a celebration of Ireland’s pub and music culture.

Diageo’s European corporate relations director, Peter O’Brien told Dublin radio station Newstalk: “On Thursday, the vast majority of people will go out and enjoy all of those things and enjoy them sensibly.

“The reality is, people make choices, and some people choose to over-drink, and they end up in A&E. And every person who ends up in A&E is a bad thing. But you can’t lay that at the store of publicans or individual companies like ourselves.”

O’Brien has also said that he will spend tomorrow night in an A&E ward to see for himself the scale of drinking-related admissions Arthur’s Day is said to cause.

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