Prosperity is blamed for Irish people topping drink league


The prosperity boom has put more money in our pockets and more drink in our glasses, according to a new survey. The average person living in Ireland drank 12.3 litres of pure alcohol in 2000, 2.5 more litres than France and Germany and almost four litres more than Britain.

The latest World Drink Trends survey issued by the British business group and research firm Mintel shows only the Czech Republic recorded a greater consumption of beer, with a per-capita consumption of 160 litres, against 153 litres in Ireland.

Germany, traditionally seen as a big beer-drinking country, recorded a consumption of 125 litres by each person.

The Irish increase is attributed to greater affluence, increased consumption by young people and by tourists. The survey found each person spent €1,270 on alcohol last year in the Republic.

The number of teetotallers in Ireland has continued to decline. Five years ago, 80 per cent of adults in the Republic drank alcohol and 75 per cent of Northern Ireland adults, based on a survey of more than 5,000 people. By last year, 83 per cent of adults in the Republic were drinkers. The 18-24-year- old age group accounted for the largest part of the Irish market.

The report's editor, Mr Michael Kendall, noted brands such as Guinness, Harp and Jameson could no longer rely on the "lifelong loyalties" they used to enjoy.

"The modern Irish drinker is more fashion-conscious in their drinking habits and switches drinks and brands frequently within their repertoire of drinking occasions and locations."

Irish people spent 47 per cent more money on alcoholic drinks in 2001 than in 1996, according to the research from Mintel, which found the alcoholic drinks market in Ireland was worth €6.81 billion last year.

It found that wine sales have increased - with 4.2 million cases bought on the island in 2000, compared with 1.5 million cases in the early 1990s. In Northern Ireland,wine accounted for 20 per cent of the drinks market, compared with 14 per cent in the Republic.

Wine tastes have changed too. In the early 1990s, wines from France, Italy and Germany accounted respectively for 54 per cent, 16 per cent and 13 per cent of the market.

France still topped the league in 2000, but only accounted for 23 per cent of the market, while wines from Australia (17 per cent), Chile (15 per cent) and the US (14 per cent) grew in popularity.

More than 15,000 people in Dublin have driven to pubs, exceeded the drink-driving limit and arrived home in their cars without breaking the law for the last four years. They achieved this by using Slán Abhaile, a service where a trained driver drove them home in their own cars and then removed a fold-up scooter from the boot to get home.

The Dublin service has been a success, employing up to 30 drivers, but Slán Abhaile found the need to pre-book the service did not suit the Irish mentality. Now it plans to set up booths in pubs where people can order the service on site.

The first service has started in the Dropping Well in Milltown. The organisers intend to have a nationwide service within a year and to be in 50 Dublin pubs.