Sunday, May 07, 2006

To : Marian Finucane, RTE Radio 1

Dear Marian,
Perhaps it was unwise to tune in this morning, what with me suffering the after effects of one too many G&T’s last night. You see I’ve just started a new job, and trying to be sociable, I agreed to mark my first week in situ with a spontaneous first Friday drink with my new colleagues.

With no particular place to be or things to do, I lay in bed reading all morning and sought a bit of company by way of RTE Radio 1. I heard you interview that very nice man from the GAA, Sean Kelly. A man who has won universal praise for his delicate, yet purposeful, leadership of Ireland’s largest amateur organisation.

Answering all your questions with characteristic self-deprecating Kerry humour, you pressed him on the GAA’s recent renewal (for one year) of their sponsorship deal with Guinness. Outrage and horrified, you demanded with, no little indignation, to know why the GAA was taking the Diageo corporate buck.

Sean prefaced his answer by explaining first, the steps that this amateur Sporting organisation had done to try to counteract the scourge of excessive drink and drug taking by the Irish youth. "But this is so hypocritical!" you interjected more than once before Mr Kelly could answer your question. Why take the corporate sponsorship and tell the kids, ‘do what I say, not what I do’.

Please allow me to explain what is hypocritical. The state broadcaster pays you an obscene amount of money to broadcast. Much of this money is generated by advertising on RTE radio and television stations. The majority of the revenue comes from adverts for alcoholic beverages.

It would impress me a lot more if you had turned your indignation on your own employers. Your station's broadcast of 'Desperate Housewives' is sandwiched between persistent advertisements for Lindeman wine. (Kind of ironic given that one of the current story lines is a woman battling with alcoholism!) Ryan Turbidy regularly gives away alcoholic beverages to his studio audience. ‘How low can you go’, is a television programme the purpose of which seems to be how much alcohol can you consume in foreign lands and still talk coherently to a television camera.

There are many professional sporting organisations that accept sponsorship by drinks companies but this never seems to be an issue. The Heineken cup has been feted as a near ethereal experience. The Irish Derby has become the property of Budweiser. I doubt that Diageo’s sponsorship of the All Ireland Hurling Championship is the biggest single reason for why so many young people drink to excess. Any more than the Football Championship causes impressionable young men and women to sign up for a mortgage with Bank of Ireland.

As a society we have not managed to develop a responsible attitude to drink. But like blaming Gardai for road deaths, it is ridiculous to suggest that the GAA promotes hard drinking among our youth.

I wish that I had grown up in an area that had a strong GAA organisation. If so, I might have played sport a little longer in my youth. I might have developed better social skills that would have enabled me to celebrate major milestones in my life without recourse to an alcohol crutch.



Blogger Fence said...

Good post.

It always annoys me when anti-alcohol organisations give out about sporting org.s accepting money from drink companies.

Alcohol isn't illegal, not yet anyway. So why should anyone feel guilty about taking money in sponsorship. Okay, so it might raise the profile of a specific brand, but personally, I don't think it impacts on how much anyone drinks. And I know for a fact that there are plenty of people who don't drink, ever, because of their dedication to the GAA cause.

12:41 p.m., May 07, 2006  
Anonymous ainelivia said...

Well said Paige.

Drink, big issue, sorry can't go there this monday am-ish.

1:18 p.m., May 08, 2006  
Blogger Omaniblog said...

I agree with fence. A good post. You raise a meaty issue and put it in a fascinating context.

Before thinking about the main point, I'm asking: how much does Marion F. earn? What makes that obscene? I've admired her interviewing. Even wrote a blog about Brian Kennedy after she interviewed him. I thought her interview with Marion Keyes was excellent and left me wanting to read a "chicklet" novel. She's never seemed hectoring to me. But it sounds as if she was off-form this time. I'm glad to have her taken down a notch or two: no one deserves to stand too tall.

Salary-envy is rampant in some quarters. It usually sends me wondering whether the critic has run out of critical ideas. Your criticism of her rudeness is a more substantial point. And your critique of her hypocracy is very well made, in my opinion.

But what's this about your drinking habits? You're not going down the McDaid path are you?

6:36 p.m., May 10, 2006  

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