“It isn’t so much that the Irish like drinking, although there’s probably a bit of that involved, it’s that they’re basically ordered to do it,” argues the Guardian’s Paul Doyle and Simon Burnton. With Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Estonia securing the Republic Of Ireland a berth in Euro 2012, Doyle and Burnton warn, “The problem with continually telling the residents of a country that they drink and party a lot is that eventually they start drinking and partying a lot.”
In 1985, before Jack Charlton started qualifying them for major competitions, Ireland were one of Europe’s more abstemious nations – at the time they were outdrunk by France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Germany, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria and Greece.
Then came the 1988 European Championships and the run to the 1990 World Cup quarter-finals. After their penalty shoot-out defeat of Romania in that competition, Jack Charlton confidently predicted: “I think the pubs will sell more booze tonight than in the last year. There will be a party the likes of which you have never seen before.” Then there was the 1994 World Cup: “I’m trying to encourage our fans here to have another party,” said Jack. “OK, then,” said the fans.
By 1995 consumption had shot up from 9.71 litres of pure alcohol per person per year to 11.88 – the equivalent of drinking one teaspoon of pure alcohol every three and a half hours of every day, including night-times – but the Irish still drank a bit less than Austria, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Croatia, about the same as Spain, Switzerland and Romania and way less than Europe’s big drinkers at the time, France, Portugal, Germany and Slovenia.
But then they qualified for the 2002 World Cup, during which tig-hat sales went up 20% – “it’s been mental for the past couple of weeks,” said one fan – and which ended with a government-funded €500,000 street party. By 2005 they were each drinking 13.35 litres of pure alcohol, more than any country in Europe except the Czech Republic and Estonia. And a fair amount of the alcohol drunk in the Czech Republic and Estonia is consumed by people from places like Ireland on stag weekends.