‘A village without a pub is a dead village’ Billy Keane tells it like it is

A heartfelt opinion piece in the Irish Independent by journalist Billy Keane highlighted the potential impact the new drink-driving bill would have on rural pubs.

Billy grew up in his family pub in Listowel, Co Kerry and can relate to the struggle and heartache of running a business during testing times. Although he doesn’t argue with the research behind saving people’s lives he does however touch on a very important factor which perhaps could be overlooked:

I wonder how many people will die from cancer and heart disease from the worry and stress of trying to save their businesses? Who will mourn for us? There is a proven link between business stress and premature death.

There will be very few country pubs or even town pubs left in Ireland. City pubs will survive because there are taxis and buses to work. And chimney pots. Our way of life is changing so fast.

According to Billy the biggest difficulty for publicans is breathalyser tests being carried out in the morning time. This may deter people from coming to the pub as alcohol stays in the system hours after consumption. Regulation of alcohol and binge drinking is also something to be concerned about as more young people may consider to consume large units of alcohol at home.

If the pub trade is on a slippery slope some may ask, why not sell up? Billy’s answer simply being:

A village without a pub is a dead village. There was no Google or Apple in the villages or country towns the last time I checked. Work is still scarce in rural Ireland. And yes, many of us have become institutionalised. Very few of the publicans’ kids will take up the bar game. The pubs, like the post offices, will die with the owners.

Billy spoke of the vital importance for fiscal relief or grant aid for the country pubs to keep them up on their feet. However he acknowledges pubs are not willing to throw the towel in just yet:

We are fighting back, though, and some of the pubs have organised the brilliant Revival music festival here in The Square in Listowel on August 12 next, with top bands such as The Undertones, Hermitage Green, and The Blizzards. It will be some night. Country pubs will survive but only a few will still be here in five years’ time.

Now is the time to dig deep and support the heart of our local communities pubs are the social hub of interaction, celebration and therapy. Even though Billy is concerned about the future of the rural pubs his love for this unique Irish way of life is evident throughout his article:

I love the pub. I love the talk. I love the singing. I love talking about sport. Every man and woman gets to have their say. I love helping the ones in trouble. I love the couple of pints.

I love the story-telling and above all the friendships made and maintained. I owe our customers so much for reclaiming me from the ranks of the lost and the damned. There’s therapy in talk and back-up in the company of friends.

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