It’s the little differences

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?

Jules: What?

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.

Jules: Example?

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.

9 thoughts on “It’s the little differences”

  1. Like it Sober! In the big ol US of A arent you liable as a barman or bar owner until the person who has imbibed at your venue gets home?

  2. Well Frano,
    Not too sure about exact law in USA but doing some simple google searches throws up a lot of horror stories, where the bartender is responsible for punters till they get home…probably a bit extreme in my view but I can understand the thinking behind it. Scary stuff though…

  3. I would rather have people educated about personal responsibility then live somewhere where I’m being watched!
    Seriously, that man was not only responsibility for himself he was responsible for his partner & 2 children and was (excuse my language) a fucking selfish idiot.
    We need a lot more then law reform in this country Lenny! And you know yourself, if that law was brought in the people of Ireland would find ways around it.
    Its not going to be the case that people in a tiny bar in Tuam or Listolle or any other tiny town while serving people at 5 in the morning during a lock in are going to say to to someone right you’ve had enough.
    We need grass root education, teach children the dangers but also the fun and how to drink with care and personal responsibility.
    Personally i think one of the ways of doing that is at home. Parents need to teach their children.

  4. Thanks for your comment Valbo

    Your language is very much excused and I do agree with your idea that this guy was selfish, extremely so. When you have a wife and kids you do have extra responsibilities. I also agree with you 100% that there needs to be complete reform about how we think about alcohol…and this can only come from parents, leaders and peers. As we all know, sharing some booze with buddies and family can be an awesome way to spend time.
    But when do you know your limits? Can you really put your hand on your heart and say I have never drunk more than I should? And have you ever put yourself in danger when you have drunk too much? I know personally I have been so close to death many many times with ridiculous situations I have found myself in because of drink. Bar tenders oblivious to customers intoxication was a very small percentage of me being placed in these situations.
    Like all reform this has to come from without as well as within. This kind of responsible service would generally only come into play when dealing with very drunken people – like Mr. Parish above, who obviously has no idea how to look after himself.
    Not everybody is taught how to do things properly at home. Having broad generalized rules instills a different sense of responsibility into how people drink – and I see that first hand here in Australia.
    Of course people will circumvent the rules, it will always happen, but there are people who do need rules…

  5. Comparison with Aus is interesting . The big difference in Ireland is a culture of subverting rules – stats on prosecutions for serving to the intoxicated are not even available – it probably doesn’t happen. But the alcohol industry which is big in Ireland has a lot of power over govnt, so it was not a surprise that the Parish case came to nothing despite an obvious breach of duty of care. Its not that alcohol abuse makes big tax money – it costs the state a fortune in hospital bills and lost work hours – just that the alcohol lobby is stronger. Here’s my own post on Gargle Nation on the case.

  6. Hey Boozewatch,
    I read your article on gargle nation and understand your frustration. It does appear to be difficult to draw the line between common sense, personal responsibility and duty of care. Enforcing these rulings is a matter of interpretation at the moment and like a lot of laws, can be subverted to chastise or pander to the main ideology of the country – whichever suits the main bread winner. It is time for an overhaul of how we think. The devil may care attitude to alcohol consumption needs to be addressed from the high courts down to the small families in rural Ireland. When people’s lives are at risk, then it is worth changing. This case does indeed further highlight how far we have to go as an Irish society. But it is a fight worth fighting..

  7. I didn’t know about the laws here until Fran mentioned it, but one thing’s for sure – I’m not really into the boozing here. Not like I really was back home, but a couple of things I’ve found out about America bars:
    1. They free-pour all spirits, which is great if you’re trying to save money but bad if you hate hangovers,
    2. Unless you ask for a brand name spirit, the house spirits are all paint stripper,
    3. The hangovers are worse,
    4. The more or less you tip a barman can mean the difference between drinking for free and not getting much alcohol in your drink at all,
    5. There is the same “cool” bravado culture of drunkenness as there is at home – people proud of how drunk they are and getting points for their drunken stories.

    It’s a very sad story about Graham Parish, and I agree with the sentiment that booze education has to happen on every level…

  8. I have always thought that Austrailia does it right. The paddys are so poor at law enforcement its ridiculous, though maybe our new government will be different..tch yeh right!

  9. Its a sad story but a more common than you might think. i work here in ireland in a taxi company and i have seen my fare share of people being carried out of pubs.By the bar “Helpers” who arent even being employed by the pubs.Two of them sometimes even three of them have tried to put people in the car who arent fit to walk.Then they have the neck to throw my drivers dirty looks when they refuse to carry the fare.When in fact the only mode of transport they should be ringing is an ambulance.So many times i have heard of people in my town falling and injuring themselves very badly after being served drink untill they could drink no more and then some. And its always the same pubs who are the offenders its a joke.


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