Irish riled by alcohol problem comments

NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 05:00 19/06/2012
Natasha Taylor
Fairfax NZ
NATASHA TAYLOR: 'Most Irish who come to New Zealand are sensible.'

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Irish people have hit back at claims that they drink more than New Zealanders after disruptions at Saturday night's All Blacks-Ireland rugby test in Christchurch.

The comments come after a police officer working at the new AMI Stadium in Addington said most people dealt with by police were Irish.

Five people were arrested, 16 people were evicted from the stadium and up to 30 people were not allowed in before the game started because they were intoxicated.

Senior Sergeant Scott Banfield said on Sunday that the behaviour of some fans suggested Ireland had "big problems" with alcohol as 85 to 90 per cent of the people dealt with by police during the game were Irish supporters.

"If they're in Rome, do as the Romans do. We don't drink to a point where we fall over so much in our country," he said.

Christchurch Irish Society president Natasha Taylor said she thought the comments were "quite a generalisation".

"There are going to be a few people [causing trouble] wherever you go, but most [Irish] who come to New Zealand are sensible."

The problem was the youth drinking culture, not a country's drinking culture, she said.

"I think when you look around New Zealand and see the youth today, they're drinking just as much," she said.

An Irish woman living in Auckland, who did not want to be named, told The Press the comments were unfair as Ireland faced "the same problems with alcohol that you do in New Zealand".

"A lot of us are living in New Zealand as we had real uncertainty about our future in Ireland and had no choice but to leave," she said. "I can speak for my Irish friends living in New Zealand when I say that we are very grateful to be here and have welcomed the hospitality that the Kiwis have shown, but have really been frustrated by [the comments]."

She did not dispute that some troublemakers at the game would have been Irish, but "we weren't the only ones".

"This article is just going to give people an opportunity to blame us for rowdy behaviour and again tarnish us all with the same tired old `drunken Paddy' brush," she said.

Fiona Walsh, administrator for the Irish Living in New Zealand Facebook page, said the police comments were a "major topic of conversation" on the page yesterday.

Many people felt the Irish had been "tarred with the same brush" as the troublemakers.

Walsh did not think there was much difference between the drinking cultures in New Zealand and Ireland, although Kiwis seemed to drink at home more often and Irish people tended to be "more vocal" at events like rugby matches.

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Sergeant Al Lawn said police "chucked out more Irish than we did Kiwis" from the stadium on Saturday.

"Their behaviour wasn't that flash, but I don't know what it was like before or after [the game]."

Banfield said yesterday police would deal with "any supporter of any team" who was intoxicated and causing trouble at a game.

- The Press

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