Sunday 17 December 2017

Ho! Ho! Ho! It's off to the pub we go - but genes to blame - report

By David Looby

David Looby
David Looby
Our genes can lead to our drunken behaviour.

The discovery of a 'drunk and disorderly' gene which could provide an excuse for the impulsive behaviour that can follow alcohol consumption, will come as no surprise to court reporters (or Irish people) anywhere.

I have fond memories of covering the local district courts, despite the many listless hours spent head in hand waiting for an interesting case.

I've heard cock and bull stories about bulls interfering with cattle and getting injured in the process. I've even heard the 'urine steam' defence which was made famous in Kerry (naturally), when a judge threw out two cases in Killorglin in 2009, having ruled that the steam of the defendants' urine could have affected their alcohol readings taken during subsequent breath testing. 'Nil by mouth is the same as nil by nose," Judge James O'Connor declared. 'When he is urinating, he is inhaling vapourised alcohol and there's always steam off it.'

Before long solicitors across the country were trying this out on judges, with little success.

In court I've seen the hazardous effects of too much alcohol on people, many of whom have to appear time and again over the course of a year due to Garda witnesses or solicitors not being ready or present. On occasion assault cases involving a father and a son were heard and you'd often see two brothers in court up on similar charges.

Some shocking behaviour was outlined by members of the force, including one coup de grace delivered faultlessly by a Wexford superintendent, who managed to keep straight faced while describing how a man on a stag party dropped his pants and did what can only be described as an 'ass dance' in front of a singer on stage. All while highly intoxicated of course. They say if us Irish didn't have alcohol we'd conquer the world. Well we've managed to do that anyway in numerous spheres from U2 to business, from the arts, to sport. For a small nation we punch way above our weight, as Tyson Fury would attest.

Unfortunately we also do end up punching a bit too much and that is why the job of court reporter is up there with that of the undertaker in terms of job security in Ireland.

Back to the Finnish study, which has eerie echoes of what I've witnessed in court. It found that around 2 per cent of the country's population has the mutation that causes people to go wild after drinking. Even a relatively small amount of alcohol is enough to bring out the effects on those affected, according to the study. The protein made by the gene, the serotonin 2B receptor, is believed to be linked to general impulsivity and certain mental health problems.

Lead researcher Dr Roope Tikkanen, from the University of Helsinki, said: 'The results indicate that persons with this mutation are more impulsive by nature even when sober, and they are more likely to struggle with self-control or mood disorders,' He added that behaving recklessly while under the influence of alcohol was considered a 'Finnish national trait, but it is oh so true of Ireland also. News that a major scheme set to be approved by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald will see adults who have committed relatively minor crimes being 'diverted' from the courts system into educational, community and rehabilitation programmes could lessen a lot of the entertainment in courtrooms and also lot of the boredom. The so-called Community Justice Intervention model is aimed at those who have committed offences such as public drunkenness.

Wexford People

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