The Royal College Of Physicians in Ireland (RCPI) has criticised the annual Arthur's Day event, taking place this Thursday, by hosting a 'national conversation' on alcohol policy at its headquarters in Dublin last night.
At the meeting, 'Join the national conversation on alcohol - Who's calling the shots?', broadcaster Tom McGurk criticised the manner in which Diageo was shaping the messaging around the Arthur's Day event.
"You're dealing with massive multinationals with vast amounts of money, they have public relations, lobbyists, consumerists, and huge resources," he said. "They can work with psychologists to put out the right message for their brand. Take for example the advertising around Arthur's Day. Have you seen the word alcohol anywhere? No. It's all about creativity, or music."
Other speakers included Stephen Stewart, consultant hematologist at the Mater Hospital, who said that "Alcohol is more acceptable than ever, drinking a lot when you're young is more acceptable than it's ever been." He urged the government to introduce minimum pricing, which he said would have a "dramatic" effect.
Elsewhere, John Buckley, youth engagement officer, Spunout.ie, said that social media was helping shape young people's ideas about alcohol. ""We look at social media sharing of nights out, and in some cases there's sense of pride in drinking. […] Society is the educator. When we talk about education, it is happening to our young people whether we like it or not."
Commenting yesterday, Peter O'Brien, Diageo's European Corporate Relations Director, defended Arthur's Day, saying "every single one of the Arthur's Day venues will promote responsible drinking."
O'Brien said that Diageo "takes its responsibility very seriously," and noted that while the RCPI were "using Arthur's Day to try to drag us into a policy debate", public representatives should look at the bigger picture.
"Things like education, awareness and early intervention are still the best ways for us to address [overconsumption of alcohol]," he said. "It is not going to solved by some headline policy decision banning something, which might make people feel good but does nothing for the inherent problem that we're trying to address."
Last week, singer Christy Moore hit out at the annual event, revealing the lyrics of a new song he penned to mark this Thursday's proceedings, called 'Arthur's Day'. 'Diageo have mounted a crusade / Creating Arthur's Day they've suckered us into their charade', the song goes, also making reference to the event as an 'alcoholiday', and a 'happy flappy advertising scheme'.