The jockeys, the trainers and the ladies have been getting plenty of press coverage over the last week but allow me to dedicate some column inches to Galway Racing Festival’s unsung heroes.
Let’s hear it for the paramedics, emergency department doctors and nurses, council cleaning crews, the gardaí, the community wardens, the stewards, the security guards, and the tireless workers in the hospitality sector who put endless hours into ensuring that locals and visitors alike stayed well and happy during what is often referred to as ‘RAG Week for grown-ups’.
Away from the well-ordered festivities at Ballybrit, the week has long been associated with not-so-ladylike and not-so-gentlemanly behaviour on our city’s streets, and it’s partly because of the efforts of the aforementioned public and private sector workers that such behaviour doesn’t become national headline news, unlike that during the ‘unofficial’ RAG Week over the past few years.
Of course racegoers are, to a large degree, more mature and well behaved than those who engage in anti-social behaviour during the annual student (and non-student) ‘celebration’ in February. And far better dressed. But there are always going to be those who, buoyed by Champagne or Buckfast, attempt to ruin the fun for everyone else.
So thanks should be extended to those who spent time last week stitching skin, sweeping streets, washing away vomit, or otherwise cleaning up after those who overindulged. Their work often goes unacknowledged, except when shortcomings arise.
And it should be remembered that it’s not just during Race Week that these workers have to endure abuse and risk injury from those they are employed to help. There’s also Patrick’s Day, Arthur’s Day, Bank Holiday weekends, any time the sun shines for more than hour…
Over €22 million was spent treating patients whose conditions were “wholly attributable to alcohol” in Galway hospitals alone from 2006 to 2011, with 3,472 patients spending 35,149 bed days in University Hospital Galway, Merlin Park Hospital and Portiuncula Hospital being treated for alcohol-related conditions during that time. And those figures don’t even begin to reveal the true extent of the problem, because they don’t include admissions to emergency departments for alcohol-related injuries.
International research shows that when the price of alcohol goes up, alcohol-related harm goes down, and support for the introduction of minimum pricing for alcohol has been voiced by the Galway Healthy Cities Alcohol Forum, Galway City Council and Galway City Joint Policing Committee.
It’s a welcome proposal, but one look at our city’s streets during Race Week could tell you that the availability of cheap booze is just one issue that needs to be tackled in order to address problem drinking in Galway, and Ireland as a whole.
Our city’s doctors and nurses, cleaners and guards, marshalls and bouncers have seen the true face of the party and it isn’t pretty.