US mayor backs Bushmills boycott


THE newly elected mayor of San Francisco has thrown himself behind a campaign to boycott Bushmills whiskey, by pouring a bottle of Antrim's finest down the city drains.

The action by Mr Willie Brown, a Democrat, came in response to a call for a boycott from an Irish American group which has accused Bushmills of anti Catholic employment practices. Latest figures from the Fair Employment Commission suggest that only 10 of the distillery's 108 member workforce are Catholics.

But Irish Distillers, owners of the brand, expressed "surprise and disappointment" at the allegations, which it said were without foundation.

The company said that improved technology in the industry has left little room for new employment in recent years and that in Bushmills' only expanding area the visitors centre Catholic employment runs at 27 per cent.

In any case, the company added, the village of Bushmills and its hinterland are overwhelmingly Protestant.

This argument was rejected by Mr Joe O'Donoghue, president of the John Maher Irish American Democratic Club, which is spearheading the boycott. "If you used that argument in a San Francisco court, the judge would hold you in contempt and probably exact damages. The whole basis of the conflict in the North is that Catholics cannot get employment."

Mr O'Donoghue predicted the boycott would seriously affect Bushmills' sales. He said the campaign had already "leap frogged" into Boston, and would shortly extend to New York and New Jersey.

"This is major, make no mistake. I estimate we won't hurt them in the first quarter of the year, because most bar owners have already done their inventories for St Patrick's Day. But come the second quarter, they're going to feel the pinch."

The barman at San Francisco's Irish Culture Centre said last night he had seen no evidence yet that the boycott was taking effect. "Nobody's told me we shouldn't be selling it," he said.