"Should one of the state's leading cultural institutions be shilling for a drinks company?"A storm is brewing over Imma tweet Should one of the state’s leading cultural institutions be shilling for a drinks company? Last week the Twitter account of the Irish Museum of Modern Art (Imma) gave a shout-out to a brewer in Dublin 8. “We were delighted to visit Rascals for a premium guided tour with beer tasting,” simpered Imma. “The place was incredible, their craft beer really good, we had so much fun.” And it added ominously: “We’ll be back soon.”  Spoilsport Atticus asked if this tweet was appropriate, with the government busy passing laws restricting the promotion of alcohol. We got no response from Imma’s social media person, but the tweet promptly disappeared.

So opened a section of the Atticus column in The Sunday Times of 15th December 2019. It had been prompted by a tweet from the Irish Museum of Modern Art, celebrating a co-operative venture among companies and organisations in Dublin 8. IMMA staff were expressing their delight at visiting the nearby taproom of Rascals Brewery. "We had so much fun", they said, according to Atticus.

The columnist went on to report that he had replied to IMMA's tweet, questioning if it was appropriate "with the government busy passing laws restricting the promotion of alcohol", and noted that the IMMA tweet had been subsequently deleted. Rascals was understandably outraged at the column and its tone. The implication was that having fun at a brewery is not a moral activity and should not be encouraged by those in positions of responsibility.

But is it a surprise that the media openly regards drinking -- any drinking -- in this way? The well-funded anti-alcohol lobby has been clear about their aim being to denormalise drinking. Their goal is to have every mention of alcohol consumption policed until it is deemed a taboo subject. It's hard to imagine this being even theoretically possible in Ireland of all places, but the denormalisation campaign seems to have found a willing ally in The Sunday Times, both in print and on Twitter.

Read the Atticus column (top right, click to enlarge) again and imagine it took issue with a cigarette company rather than a brewer. The negativity would be quite understandable and uncontroversial. Be in no doubt that a neo-prohibitionist movement active in the Irish mainstream is striving for the same perception of drinking as we have for smoking. Members of the drinks trade who support minimum unit pricing should be aware that this is where the policy is taking us.

Today alone, Newstalk ran a piece discussing the possibility of quotas on alcohol purchased for individual consumption [link], while multiple outlets covered a new report from the ESRI on "binge drinking" among GAA atheletes without mentioning that a "binge" can be three pints of beer. [Irish Times, The Journal, ESRI report]

Yes we still have a problem with alcohol in Ireland, and yes we should be taking action against it. However, rendering alcohol as a taboo subject; a constant negative; as objectively shameful, will not serve to achieve that.

Neo-prohibitionists are sometimes described as "the enemies of fun". Let us be grateful to Atticus for making this motive entirely explicit.

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