County Donegal coroner John Cannon was speaking after he opened the inquests into the deaths of two men. The third man was treated at Letterkenny General Hospital. He believes the drink was either poitín or contraband ‘fake’ drinks.
Mr Cannon made the public warning, fearing other people may consume drinks contaminated with deadly chemicals, and most likely illegally made or contraband products.
The cases related to Denis Boyle and Rimantas Grigaliumas, both from Belcruit, Meenbanad, Burtonport, Co Donegal. Mr Boyle died on December 18, 2013. Mr Grigaliumas, died on March 13 last.
The coroner was concerned that the cause of death in both cases was alcohol related with an exceedingly high level of poisonous contaminant.
The evidence given by investigating gardaí at the inquest in Letterkenny stated that both men had been drinking heavily immediately before their deaths.
The coroner said the toxic and poison range of methanol is 100 to 125 milligrammes per decilitre and in one of those deaths the methanol level was five times higher — at 585.
Sergeant Bridget McGowan indicated that a third person had been admitted to hospital and it was believed this serious illness may have also been caused by methanol or some other contaminant.
Coroner Mr Cannon said the fact substances such as “methanol and other toxic ingredients are used to either corrupt or debase or make impure an alcoholic beverage to pretend a taste or potency of its quality in order to make it more marketable in an unlawful underground market is potentially lethal and dangerous to public health”.
“The toxicological analysis of the sample analysed by the State Laboratory in relation to these deaths is catastrophically alarming and it is important that the public is aware and warned of the existence of poisonous alcohol availability in the public place. This potentially catastrophic alcohol is either a home brew, like poitín, or it may be available as cheap illegally imported alcohol with the pretence of conventional branded names of well-known distilleries.
“It appears to be easily obtained and as such is a serious public health issue.
“There are almost twice as many deaths due to alcohol in Ireland compared to all other drugs combined. More than 100 deaths every year in Ireland are directly attributable to alcohol.
“In 2012, 4015 people aged under 30 were discharged from hospital with chronic diseases which were alcohol related. It behoves us to highlight and warn the general public on such matters.”