VARIOUS TRAVELERS TO THE CELTIC LANDS--STRABO, GERALD OF CAN- terbury, Geoffrey Keating, and wandering Victorian Englishmen coming to stare at the native--have all commented on the Irish proclivity for that which is delicately called "the creature." Drinking has been frequently said to be the "curse of the Irish race," as if the Irish were the only people in the world who drink or who have serious drinking problems. Heavy drinking, in the minds of the Irish Americans, and other Americans as well, is an integral part of Irish Catholic culture and, indeed, the reason for the lack of Irish success in the United States. It is also both the cause of the failure of Irish family life and the result of the rigors of that family life.
The drunken Irish male abounds in fiction and in folklore and in the alcohol research of social science. If there is one issue on which the myth and the research evidence ought to converge, it ought to be on the subject of Irish Catholic drinking.
Or so it seems.
But the matter is somewhat more complicated. Of the nine Common Market countries, the Republic of Ireland is sixth in its per capita alcohol consumption, eighth in its per capita consumption of spirits, and ninth in its per capita consumption of wine. There are, in