Miriam’s Musings

We Irish have a love for liquids! So what?

You’ve been working from home all week. You’re struggling with the stress of separating your personal life from your professional life. But hey, it’s Friday night – time to unplug, order a takeaway, plonk down on the sofa, open a bottle of your favourite tipple, relax and binge your new favourite Netflix series. So far, so normal, and so me… except for ordering the takeaway (I find it impossible to get a vegan choice, so I have to cook), but other than that tiny gripe, I’ve pretty much described my weekend. And, as we’re all confined to quarters, sure what else is there to do with our down time? Very little!

It’s for that reason that I was taken aback at broadcaster Ray Darcy’s tut-tut, finger-wagging attitude to the nation during his RTÉ radio show regarding our ‘unhealthy’ relationship with alcohol, which, according to the Health Research Board’s report, sees us as having “the ninth highest alcohol consumption rate in the world”. Apparently folks, the average person drinks ‘the equivalent of 40 litres of vodka, 113 bottles of wine or 436 pints of beer in one year’.

Now, while it’s entirely understandable that there would be a small increase in drinking at home during the pandemic, I have to admit I find these latest statistics not just worrying, indeed I find them shocking. I didn’t realise we consumed so much of the hard stuff. However, perhaps being a bit more pragmatic than the lovely Mr. Darcy, I’ve decided not to chastise and criticise the intoxicated, but instead I began to wonder what it is that makes us love our liquids so much?

Perhaps it all stems from our heritage. After all, we do have a catastrophic history filled with persecution, repression, starvation and poverty – throw a national health and economic crisis into the mix and it’s no wonder we’d be desperate for any reason to lighten our mood and have the bit o’craic?

It could also be said that the Irish have an obsession with excessive tea drinking, yet nobody seems to be doing any research on that particular little dependency, now are they?  And while I’m sure drinking tea won’t do us the level of harm reportedly caused by downing a cocktail or three, I have to wonder if Mr. Darcy’s pinched tone would be equally reproachful regarding the fact we Irish are, according to enjoy-irish-culture.com, ‘the heaviest tea drinkers per capita in the world’.

I do understand why Ray (given his revelations regarding his dad being ‘a big drinker’) is concerned about the possible abuse of alcohol. You see, like him, I also grew up in a house ravaged by the effects of alcohol, and yes, there was, as Ray described, ‘tension, tension, tension’ in our home, with the threat of violence and conflict from one individual being commonplace. This destructive figure was not my darling dad, who is a gentleman and a pacifist that doesn’t drink alcohol.

So I do empathise with Ray, and even though I enjoy my weekend tipple, like Mr. Darcy, I’m also cautious around alcohol, allowing myself to consume one bottle of wine a week, spaced out over Friday and Saturday. Why? Well sadly, I feel indulging outside of these nights would feel like a moral failing on my part.

However, unlike the S&M (shame and misery) brigade, I don’t believe in admonishing anyone who does, nor will I castigate them for enjoying or needing that stiff drink. I understand all too well that alcohol, like drug and substance abuse/addictions etc., can have a profoundly negative impact on a family’s life – in some cases, destroying it altogether – and that’s utterly heart-breaking. Please understand that I’m not condoning, supporting or promoting alcohol abuse. However, I find it highly intrusive for anyone, whether government officials or those with a high profile, to utilise a public platform as a form of tenuous justification to intrude on a person’s right to indulge in a relaxing few drinks!

I don’t know about you folks, but I fear it’s getting to the stage where we won’t be able to snack on a bag of crisps, eat a bar of chocolate, munch on a mint humbug or savour a slice of pizza without becoming riddled by guilt! Indeed, I wonder how long it will be before we’re apologising for eating and drinking at all!


We must stop viewing domestic violence as ‘a private family matter’

The shocking death of a young mother of two, who was fatally stabbed to death in her own home last weekend, has hit the nation hard.  Jennie Poole (24) was allegedly murdered in her apartment in Finglas, north Dublin. Her partner has been charged in connection with this heinous act.

This beautiful young woman’s name will tragically be added to the ever-growing list of other Irish women who’ve died by the act of Femicide – a female homicide usually committed by the woman’s partner or ex-partner. Indeed readers, given it was recently disclosed that Gardaí are responding to 30,000 domestic violence calls per year in this country, it’s fair (and shameful) to say that these cases have now overtaken incidences of so-called gangland murders.

While I do of course acknowledge that men can also be victims of domestic violence, it must be stressed that it is women who are more likely to be murdered by an intimate partner in our own homes. This tells me ladies that disgracefully, in 2021, domestic violence is most definitely a gendered problem, and both our children and us are unsafe in our own homes.

However, while abusive relationships occur across all cultures, I think it’s about time we focused our attentions and resources on examining just what it is in our own culture and society that allows for or even facilitates the monstrous abuse and murder of our women and children. It’s also about time we stopped viewing domestic violence as a private family matter – it’s not. If you witness anything you deem to be suspicious or worrying occurring between partners or between parents and children, please, please, please call the Gardaí. May Jennie and all the other women who lost their lives to the act of Femicide rest in peace.


Apprenticeships: a perfect path to a professional career!

Last week, Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris launched an Action Plan on Apprenticeships in what I’d deem to be an incentive to encourage school leavers to take them up. What a wonderful idea and well done to Simon for highlighting and promoting what is, in my opinion, the perfect path for young people to learn a skill at a training centre and gain on-the-job experience as they travel along the road to their professional career.

We all know that progressing to a third level education is not for everyone, especially those who dread sitting in a lecture hall and prefer getting hands-on experience (earning a few Euro while they’re at it). The days are long-gone when opting for an apprenticeship was seen as a ‘fall-back’/‘cop-out’ option for students that didn’t manage to secure enough points to attend college.

Now, while I went to college myself, and while both my girls went to college, I can tell you that after three months, my eldest dropped out. Her excuse, which was, “I just can’t hack it Mam”, upset me, but I listened and encouraged her to pursue her own path, which was hairdressing. She’s now a successful business owner, indeed some would call her an entrepreneur, and I couldn’t be more proud of both herself and her sister, who graduated from college and is (bless her, a bit like me) nerdy!

On a lighter note…does it strike anyone as being ironic that our Minister for Higher Education is himself a college dropout? According to universitytimes.ie, Mr. Harris reportedly began a degree in Journalism and French in the Dublin Institute of Technology. However, the online article quotes the Irish Times (from 2016) as reporting that Mr. Harris ‘dropped out to pursue politics’. Fair play to him, he followed his heart.