Youth workers have joined with doctors, psychiatrists, and musicians in calling for the event to be reconsidered amid accusations that it encourages binge drinking and stretches emergency services.
One opposition group has begun a social media campaign urging a boycott of the event, promising to tweet images of drunken behaviour on the streets when it takes place this Thursday.
Diageo yesterday tackled the criticisms, arguing the event was a music festival that took place in pubs rather than a field.
“Nobody is required to drink anything on the night,” said Peter O’Brien, the company’s director of corporate affairs who also chairs DIGI, the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland.
However, child and adolescent psychiatrist Bobby Smyth, a board member of Alcohol Action Ireland, said executives at Diageo’s headquarters in London were laughing at the Irish.
“How they must have laughed at the Paddies again,” said Dr Smyth. “Give them some subsidised drink, give them some free music and get them dancing to your tune.”
Arthur’s Day, a marketing creation, was first staged in 2009 to mark the 250th anniversary of the founding of the Guinness brewery by Arthur Guinness and is now an annual event, spreading to more than 40 countries.
Spokespeople for Diageo, which owns Guinness, say the company’s intention was not to encourage people to drink more but just to drink more Guinness brands.
This was disputed by Stephen Stewart, liver specialist and member of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, which opposes the event.
“You only have to go into an emergency department on the night of Arthur’s Day,” said Dr Stewart.
“What you will see are not people who have just switched brand. You will not see people who have been listening to too much music. You will see people who have been drawn into the pubs by making a weekday into a celebration of drinking.”
Emergency services reported a 30% rise in ambulance call-outs on the event last year, but Mr O’Brien said that was not due to the event but the extra numbers out that night.
In an interview, on Newstalk radio, he said he would be happy to spend Thursday night in a hospital emergency department and report back on what he saw.
Meanwhile, youth website SpunOut.ie said musicians taking part should donate their fee to charities tackling alcohol abuse. Mike Scott of the Waterboys has been tweeting international acts taking part urging them to reconsider.