Pub Crawl

A man walks into a bar… in Ireland

Stephen Beard Jun 11, 2012
Pub Crawl

A man walks into a bar… in Ireland

Stephen Beard Jun 11, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: Back to Europe in this part of the program and the trickle-down from that very generous $125 billion bailout that Spain’s gonna get. If you were thinking European countries that have already been bailout out are going to say, in essence — hey, how do we get a deal like that? Well, they already are. The Greek anti-austerity party wants fresh terms for its bailout. In Ireland, the deputy finance minister is trying to convince people their aid package was “just as attractive.” How all that’s playing down at the corner pub, though, that’s a whole other story. A story, actually, that Stephen Beard’s gonna be telling all week in a series called “A man walks into a bar.”

Our man in Europe has spent the past week pub-crawling through five European cities asking everyday bar patrons and teetotalers alike what they think of the debt crisis. He starts today in Ireland.

Stephen Beard: Kennedy’s Pub in Ballyhea, County Cork. For the past 30 years it’s been a kind of second village hall, but cosier. The ceilings are low. Polished wood and brass fittings gleam reassuringly. On the walls: photos of Irish sports teams basking in past victories. But the present isn’t so cheery. It’s 9 o’clock on a Friday night and there are barely a dozen people here. You might think whatever the crisis is doing, it’s not driving the Irish to drink. But landlady Yvonne Kennedy has a different take.

Yvonne Kennedy: I will be berated for this, but my opinion is that Irish people medicate, celebrate, we do everything with alcohol. And we do it to excess.

She says people are drinking plenty — but at home, where it’s cheaper, if not as convivial as here in the bar. Local warehouseman Pat Maloney has seen his income cut in half during the downturn.

Pat Maloney: Going out, coming to the pub here. It’s very seldom we come out any more.

Beard: How often do you come to this pub?

Maloney: Oh, this pub? I’d say this is the second time I’ve been here in five years. We just can’t afford it.

Two hours later a few more drinkers have drifted into Kennedy’s. The booze has been flowing copiously. People are starting to unwind.

Customer: I’ll have a gin and tonic, please. And a brandy for the alcoholic over there with red hair!

But stoney–faced and stone cold sober — in the adjoining pool room -– sits another local and pub regular, Diarmuid O’Flynn.

Diarmuid O’Flynn: It’s ludicrous what’s happening. It is unprecedented what’s happening: bullying and blackmailing the Irish government and the Irish people into assuming a debt that is not theirs.

He says the European Central Bank failed to stop Ireland’s property bubble inflating. Then it pressured the government to bail out all the banks, saddling the taxpayer with huge debts. Diarmuid organizes a regular, local protest march. And he says when he goes around the county with his campaign he sees real anger.

O’Flynn: The people who got the hottest reception were the people who stood up and spoke about violence.

Beard: Threatened violence?

O’Flynn: Threatened violence. It’s time for the gun. It’s time for the bullet. And I’m telling you there’s that undercurrent here of people who, I think, are ready to just explode.

It’s now 11 o’clock and the mood has mellowed. Diarmuid and others are singing a lament to the centuries of oppression that Ireland has suffered.

“Irish Ways and Irish Laws” song

Frances O’Brien, a 73-year-old dairy farmer, says Ireland is now run by foreigners — by the Germans and the French. She says Ireland’s freedom fighters, who won independence from the British yoke, would be appalled.

Frances O’Brien : Oh, how would they turn in their grave! They gave their lives to give us freedom. And we’ve handed it.

Beard: Handed away your independence and your sovereignty?

O’Brien: Our sovereignty, really, because other people are deciding what’s happening in our country now.

The crisis has touched everyone in this pub. Teacher Fiona Fitzpatrick has seen many young friends lose their jobs and then emigrate. And she’s fretting about the future.

Fiona Fitzpatrick: I am a mother. I’m a mother to three children who I absolutely adore. I really want my children to have a chance here. And I just feel their future has been stolen away. Having to leave your country because you have to, because you don’t have work here, that’s not what I want for my children.

Irish song

Just before Kennedy’s closed at 1 o’clock in the morning, some regulars sang this sad little song about the death of some Irish fishermen in a storm off the coast of Donegal. Diarmuid O’Flynn says Ireland is also at sea.

O’Flynn: This thing is going from bad to worse. It is. It is going from bad to worse. And god knows where it’s going to end up.

At Kennedy’s Pub in Ballyhea, County Cork, I’m Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

Ryssdal: A night in an Irish pub gets you more than just a four-minute radio story. Stephen’s reporters notebook is here. Tomorrow, he walks into a bar in Paris. And we’re tracking one very specific economic indicator during this series — the price of a pint of beer. What do you drink and what do you pay? Tweet us at @MarketplaceAPM with the hashtag #econpubcrawl or tell us here — at our map of beer prices from across the globe. Add yours.

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