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Hung out to dry

By Caitríona McKenna

Taoiseach Brian Cowen faced immense criticism following an interview last month on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland radio programme, which he attended after a late night conference in Galway.

Fine Gael’s Simon Coveney said on the social networking site Twitter that the interview was uninspiring and that the Taoiseach “sounded half way between drunk and hung-over and totally disinterested”.

This incident sent not only the country but the world into uproar, sparking a debate in the global media as to the capability and leadership of our Taoiseach. It resulted in 457 articles in over 400 publications worldwide, as well as over 1600 tweets –  all in less than 24 hours of the interview.

More attention has now been drawn to the stigma of working after drinking the night before, or in most cases, a mere few hours before work.  However, being Irish we are generally known for drinking – it is, after all, in our culture.  “After-work drinks” in order to get to know each other are basically a tradition at this stage, or even used as a way to unwind at the end of a long day and have a laugh with colleagues.  Drinking is both advertised and encouraged – as, for example, in promotions for “your local pub” on the radio. So where do we draw the line?

Cowen confronted about his Morning Ireland interview

Katie Lawlor (20), a student from Dublin, says, “It doesn’t seem to be too much of a big deal if students are a bit worse for wear the next day since we generally just have to go to lectures… I think it definitely depends on what you have to do the next day – like if you have an exam or presentation you’re not going to stay out half the night, it’s just common sense. Same thing if you’re in a 9 to 5 job, if you have a lot of work to do the next day and certain responsibilities then you shouldn’t be going into work still drunk, so it’s even more unacceptable when it’s someone in as high a position as the Taoiseach.”

Ken O’Mara (34), a construction worker from Dublin, thinks we have a right to go out for a drink if we feel like it.  “I’ve gone into work a bit rough after a night out and would feel like death while on the job, but I wouldn’t be able to afford to miss work so I have to go in.  At the same time, what I do in my spare time or on a night out is my prerogative, it’s my personal life, so why shouldn’t I go out and enjoy myself if I want to?”

Kevin Doyle (60) from Lucan disagrees with this and thinks that we shouldn’t go out on a work night if it is going to affect our work the next day.  “There’s a safety hazard with certain jobs like bus or truck drivers or construction workers, if they’ve been out drinking the night before there’s always the question of how well can they do their job.  Everyone should have their own work ethic and responsibility when it comes to drink.  And it’s totally different when it’s the premier of the country or just regular Joes like you or me.”

Marie O’Connor (56), an accountant from Cork thinks that what you have to do for work should come first and that weekends are for going out.  “You shouldn’t work and drink, in any job, from Monday to Friday.  No-one should drink late when they have work the next day because you can’t concentrate…you shouldn’t mix pleasure with work.”

It is apparent that many people feel strongly when it comes to the stigma that has been attached to drinking when in work the next day, but no matter how many people complain and say it is a disgrace it doesn’t seem likely that it will stop people going out for after-work drinks any time soon. As I said, it is in our culture, and perhaps what needs to be done in order to move away from this stigma (as with anything) is to find a balance when going for a few when we have work the next day.  There will always be someone who says “just one more”, but that’s when you have to decide for yourself if you can afford to indulge, or if it will affect your capability in work or with your responsibilities the next day.

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