A big booze news story coming out of the land of leprechauns and limericks, is that of the case of Graham Parish who died from acute alcohol poisoning in Hayes Hotel in Thurles in 2009. He was out celebrating the birth of his second child on his twenty sixth birthday. He slumped off a chair after downing a single drink which contained double shots of Baileys, Southern Comfort, Jack Daniels and Gin. He had apparently drunk 10 pints of lager and a couple of shots of vodka previous to this. For a detailed report on this story you can click here. The judged ruled that the bartenders who had served him were not responsible for his death, as it had been Mr. Parish’s decision to drink the concoction while ultimately killed him. It is a horrendous story which has no real sunlight at the end of it.
After reading all about this case I was left to think deeply about the way things operate in Ireland. I could not help but compare the Irish attitude to drinking with the prevailing ones here in Australia. When I say attitude, I suppose I mean the enforcement of accepted responsibility. You see the responsibility in Australia, rests with the bar tender who serves the drink. The ultimate responsibility lies with the holder of the licence who employs that bar tender. The licensee of any hotel or bar in Australia will not condone serving alcohol to people who are already drunk. It is illegal. It is a law and it is enforced. It is engrained into every bartenders working habits. They are trained to recognise intoxication, act on it and be responsible. Nobody is trying to kill the fun, just accept that as customers become tipsy and then drunk, their decision making is impaired and it is the responsibility of those serving the alcohol to provide a duty of care to the customers.
I was reminded of that scene in Pulp Fiction where John Travolta (Vincent) and Samuel L. Jackson (Jules) discuss the differences between USA and Europe. Have a look above and then put this text in instead of theirs.
Jules: Okay, now, tell me about the bars in Ireland.
Vincent: So what you want to know?
Jules: Well, getting blind drunk is legal there, right?
Vincent: Yeah, it’s legal, but it ain’t a hundred percent legal. I mean, you can’t walk into a restaurant, blind drunk, and start dancin’ away. They want you to drink in your home or certain designated places.
Jules: Those are Irish bars?
Vincent: Breaks down like this, okay: it’s legal to get drunk, it’s legal to be drunk, and if you’re the proprietor of a bar in Ireland, it’s legal to get people drunk. It’s illegal to serve people who are already drunk, but that doesn’t really matter ’cause get a load of this, all right; if you get busted serving drunks by the cops in Ireland, it’s illegal for them to prosecute you as being negligent. I mean, that’s a right the cops in Ireland don’t have.
Jules: [laughing] Oh, man. I’m going, that’s all there is to it. I’m fucking going.
Vincent: Yeah, baby, you’d dig it the most. But you know what the funniest thing about Ireland is?
Vincent: It’s the little differences. I mean, they got the same shit over there that we got here, but it’s just…it’s just there it’s a little different.
Vincent: All right. Well, you can walk into a bar in Dublin and buy a beer. Even if you’re polluted drunk they’ll still serve you. And in Galway, you can fall asleep in a bar, wake up and they’ll keep serving you. And you know what they call a schooner of beer in Cork?
Jules: They don’t call it a schooner of beer?
Vincent: Nah, man, they got the macho metric system. They wouldn’t know what the fuck a schooner is.
Jules: What do they call it?
Vincent: They call it a “Glass for the lady”.
Jules: “Glass for the Lady”.
Vincent: That’s right.
Jules: What do they call a JD and Coke?
Vincent: A JD and Coke is a JD and coke, but they call it “’nother JD nd Coke lad”.
Jules: [in mock Irish accent] “’nother JD ‘nd coke lad.” [laughs] What do they call a Cosmopolitan?
Vincent: I don’t know, I didn’t drink cocktails.
I suppose the point I want to make is a little more serious than the above might highlight. In Queensland Australia, in 1997, a judge ruled in favour of a plaintiff who was suing a pub for serving a patron while knowing they had to cross a busy highway to get home. The judge awarded the patron the sum of $125,000 and agreed that the duty of care lies with the hoteliers to provide safe transport home. Allowing a patron who became intoxicated on their premises to leave, knowing they had to undertake a relatively dangerous journey home, was deemed irresponsible, illegal and ultimately criminal. There are a lot of other extreme cases in Australian law highlighting how Hotels and publicans are responsible for patrons to a far higher degree than their Irish counterparts. The tendency of ruling law in Ireland favours the publican, while in Australia it favours the customer.
Where does the answer lie? Somewhere in the middle I would say. In Ireland there is no certified training which is regulated and part of the law for ALL bar tenders/managers etc. In Australia it is illegal for a bar to operate without fully certified “Responsible Service of Alcohol” staff. I know that it would be virtually impossible for any Australian barman to serve the concoction of 8 shots of alcohol in one drink. It is illegal to serve more than 3 shots in one single dose. Of course people get drunk over here, but people know they are being watched and monitored. They know that once they get boorish, slurry and staggery then they will be cut off and sent on their way. In Ireland I know that it takes much more to be in a position to ask people to leave. I feel sorry for the family Graham Parish left behind. The system has allowed him be put into this intoxicated position, then refuses to accept any responsibility for this process being in place. The bar tenders in question should not be blamed as they were carrying out their duties, albeit in an erroneous manner. Sure they could have refused the service of the drink, but it is not a legal requirement of them to do so. I feel real sympathy for them too. Their lives are no doubt ruined.
If I was an entrepreneurial mind in Ireland right now, I would be studying the RSA programmes of Australia and setting up training courses right around the country. These will soon become law. The mindsets will slowly change in Ireland, it’s only a matter of time.