or a nation famed for greeting the day through the bottom of a breakfast Guinness glass, pub landlords in the Republic of Ireland appear to have taken virus-curbing instructions to remain closed with surprising compliance and even enthusiasm.
Concerned at the toll five months of lockdown must be taking on the business, finances and mental health of the island’s honest publicans, reporter Seamus O’Jenson set out to visit some of the Republic’s closed hostelries.
“It’s lovely to see them so well kept-up,” reports Seamus, pulling up at the Hop and Suppit in Wexford, “I thought they might be looking neglected, even overgrown, but every one I’ve passed so far has open doors, blooming hanging baskets; lots of fresh tyre tracks in the carpark.
“Some are still nostalgically displaying ‘open!’ signs, and Kilkenny’s Quiff and Jedward is advertising a weekly quiz, ceilidh, and tractor pull, which is really quite poignant. I suppose it helps them focus on the return to happier times.”
Many pubs remain firmly at the heart of the community, as Seamus discovered at the Cunning Finagle in Shannon. “I arrived quite late, so assumed all would be quiet. But no; it was full of villagers all helping with a community pub clean.
“At least three were behind the bar, pulling away to prevent the pump handles seizing up, and several dozen more were busy cleaning the pint glasses, I think with traditional malt vinegar. Apparently, they all do it quite regularly.”
Some publicans have sadly been forced to abandon the pub trade altogether. Visiting the Drunken Potato GM Crop Research Centre in Sligo, Seamus was given a fascinating view of experimental hop, wheat and barley grains all gene-ing away ready for testing in laboratory containers with science-y names like ‘flagon’, ‘tankard’, and ‘yard of ale glass’.
Broaching the tricky subject of finances, Seamus took heart from one landlord’s typically glass-half-full optimism: “I couldn’t catch all he said- something about healthy cashflow, and no payments to the revenue, what with keeping it all under the counter?
“He chuckled he was quids in, which I assume is some kind of charming country expression meaning stoically hopeful for better times ahead. I’ll raise a glass to that.”