Irish Tourists Arrested for Watching a Game of Bingo in Portugal

The desire to stamp out illegal gambling in Portugal seems to have taken a bizarre turn. A group of 28 British and Irish tourists were arrested by Portuguese police for being in a bar where a game of bingo was taking place.

Irish Tourists were among those arrested for playing Bingo in Portugal

Under Portuguese law any gambling, even bingo, needs to have an appropriate licence. The first game of bingo had concluded when the police swooped on the bar, arresting those present, regardless of whether or not they were actually participating in the game.

The owner of the Yorkshire Tavern is Marianne Pittaway:
“It is crazy, an absolute joke. We were playing bingo for biscuits, chocolate and some alcoholic drinks. There was no money exchanged apart from paying for the ticket. The money we make pays for prizes.

Everyone in the bar who was playing bingo was handed a 300 Euro fine plus a three-month suspended sentence. Those who were in the bar but not playing were given a 150 Euro fine plus a three-month suspended sentence. I was given a €700 fine and a four-month suspended sentence and [partner] António was given a 500 Euro fine and a four-month suspended sentence.”

The incident has the potential to be a public relations disaster for the Portuguese tourist industry. While it is reasonable of course for the Portuguese to enforce their laws it is perhaps counter-productive of them to target holiday-makers for such a minor infraction, especially as these are the same tourists who are bringing much needed finance into the local economy.

Portugal is in receipt of 78 Billion Euro EU/IMF/ECB loans following the collapse of its property market. Unemployment in Portugal in the first quarter of 2013 was 17.7%, as reported by the Instituto Nacional de Estatistica.

Scaring tourists away is hardly going to help that number.

by Michael Green
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Vested Interests Attempt To Scupper Alcohol Advertising Ban

The ongoing attempts to reduce the amount of alcohol consumption in Ireland have been met with predictable opposition from those with most to lose.

Irish sporting associations receive alcohol sponsorhip

The head of Diageo in Ireland, who own the Guinness brand, has warned that a ban on sports sponsorship in Ireland could lead to a reduction in its future investment in the country. The thinly veiled threat is aimed squarely at the Government who are attempting to ban sponsorship by alcohol companies at all Irish sporting events. The plan is to phase out all sponsorship links between high-profile sporting events and alcohol brands by the year 2020.

The Gaelic Athletic Association and Irish Rugby benefit greatly from sponsorship by Guinness and Heineken respectively. It is inevitable that the ban of this sponsorship will mean less money for these huge sports. Nevertheless the Government seem determined to press ahead with the ban, realizing the devastating effect that alcohol consumption can have on young lives. The cost to the Irish taxpayer in dealing with health-care and crime issues from those abusing alcohol costs the State at least 3.7 Billion Euro annually. (* note 1)

A recent report by the Health Research Board has found that 58% of Irish people believe the Government is not doing enough to reduce alcohol consumption while 85% of Irish people believe that the current level of alcohol consumption in Ireland is far too high. Average alcohol consumption in the year 2010 was 145% higher than the average amount consumed in the year 1960, a startling increase.

Recent initiatives (and the recession) have helped to curb some of these excesses. A CSO report indicates that alcohol consumption in Ireland is actually down 19% since 2001.

Speaking at the Oireachtas (Irish Parliament) Committee on Transport and Communications Pat Hickey, the President of the Olympic Council of Ireland, lambasted the drinks industry:

I thought it was an absolute disgrace to read a report of an international company, Diageo, making an attack on the Irish Government and the Irish State about how they should conduct their business and investment. This is a multinational that has no interest whatsoever in Ireland except they happen to have a product beginning with ‘G’ and they promote that in Irish pubs just to get bigger profits around the world.

John Treacy is Chief Executive of the Irish Sports Council and won a Silver medal in the Marathon at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. He offered a different angle, suggesting that any ban would force the very best of Irish rugby players to ply their trade abroad, in much the same way that the best Irish soccer players work in England.

The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland also had their say to the Committee arguing that any ban would not address alcohol misuse. A spokesperson remarking:

Evidence shows that the principal influencers on youth drinking are parents and peers.
Alcohol consumption in Ireland has a huge cost
It should not be a real surprise then that those sporting bodies who receive sponsorship from alcohol companies would oppose any ban. It would mean that they would have to find new sponsors.

But perhaps the real question that is not being asked is just why the alcohol companies engage in such advertising? The answer is obvious if unspoken. It is clear that they hugely benefit from their sponsorship and especially benefit in attracting younger people to their brands, since it is to a large degree the younger generation who are most passionate about sport.

Younger people. The next generation of drinkers.

It is ironic that sporting agencies that are supposed to help further the health and well-being of young people are arguing for their efforts to be associated with Ireland’s biggest killer, alcohol. Of course they are most concerned about the next five years and about promoting sport in Ireland, which is admirable. But it is the next twenty-five years and the next fifty years that really should be the focus.

The links between pub-owners and politicians, especially in rural locations is hard to break. The financial contribution of the multi-national drinks companies is impossible to ignore. The Irish sports bodies are even arguing against a sponsorship ban.

Is it any wonder that there is such a huge alcohol problem in Ireland?

Meanwhile the Irish drinking binge goes on.

* note 1: See http://alcoholireland.ie/facts/alcohol-related-harm-facts-and-statistics/

by Michael Green
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Greedy Irish Politicians Revert to Type in Seanad Showdown

OPINION PIECE

The division between what is broadly termed ‘the establishment’ and the ordinary citizens of Ireland has rarely been more evident than in recent weeks.

Irish Seanad may be abolished

The current Government is committed to holding a referendum to provide for the abolition of the Seanad (one of the Irish houses of Parliament – pronounced ‘shan-idd’). The Seanad has very little real power and although it can delay the passage of legislation by up to three months it cannot ultimately stop laws being made by the main Irish Parliament.

It is an unelected body and thus has become a breeding ground for ‘wannabe’ politicians and as a means of rewarding cronyism and political favours. Several of the countries Universities get to nominate members of the Seanad also, a privelege they guard jealously.

It was in the run-up to the most recent General Election that Taoiseach Enda Kenny declared that he thought the Seanad should be abolished and that his Party were committed to holding a referendum and giving the Irish people the chance to have their say.

It is with a sense of despair then that the everyday Irish person has to witness the campaign being currently waged by members of the political, legal and academic elite in this country, and aided by a compliant media.

The promise to abolish the Seanad house was put forward at the precise moment when just about every institution in the country was a potential target. The country was bankrupt. It made no sense whatsoever to have a second Parliament house at a ridiculous cost.

With a population of just over 4.5 million the country is served by 166 directly elected T.D.’s and 60 Senators in the Seanad. Utter madness. Taoiseach Enda Kenny estimates the abolition of the Seanad could save 20 Million Euro annually:

Enda Kenny

‘There is something fundamentally wrong, in my view, in politicians asking others to change and make real sacrifices and not doing the same ourselves’

Against this backdrop it looked certain that the guillotine would fall. But perhaps unsurprisingly many politicians and members of the elite, and particularly those Senators who are most likely to lose out on huge pay and expenses, have reversed their position and are now seeking to have the Seanad reformed instead of abolished.

The ‘Save our Seanad’ campaign is in full flow:
‘It acts as a safeguard against the excesses of the main Parliament’ they say.
‘It has propelled some very fine people into public life’ they say.

Oversight of the behaviour of the Irish Parliament is provided by its own Committees, the News Media and ultimately by the Irish people who get to vote people out of office every 5 years if they so wish (often sooner). And as for training people for political life in the future? That is the job of the political parties, of debating societies and pubs everywhere.

The Seanad is an expensive talking shop populated by the unelectable, by cronies of political big-shots, by academics and poseurs. It is appalling to witness those who most benefit from its existence scratch around for every conceivable tactic and strategy to try to keep it going. The worst kind of money-grabbing. Legalized theft. Looting of what is left of the public finances.

Our money – the Irish peoples money – being used to line the pockets of a bunch of dilettantes.

The existence of the Seanad is contrary to the spirit of an Irish Republic and it should be abolished at the first opportunity.

by Michael Green
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