True to their international reputation, the Irish do indeed spend a lot of time drinking. They have the highest per capita alcohol consumption rate in Europe, if not the world. This isn't as surprising as the fact that, apparently, half of the Irish population doesn't drink, which means the other half drinks twice as much.
And when they drink, they really drink. Where I come from, i.e. the world outside of Ireland, drinking until you vomit is embarrassing; it's a sign that you've had too much and can't hold your liquor and have no self-control. At this point, your friends would push some water at you and pour you into a cab, making soothing noises and gently shaking their heads in disappointment. Here, vomiting is simply a stage in the night's drinking. Not only are young people not embarrassed to be throwing up in the streets, they're almost proud! Like, Once again, I've overcome my personal alcohol threshold and forged new ground! Their friends help them wipe off their mouths and the whole group once again stumbles down the street to the next pub. I have never seen so much grossness in the streets on Saturday and Sunday mornings as in Dublin.
However, maybe because they spend so much time drunk out of their minds, the Irish are the best drunks I've ever met. They are the nicest, funnest, most genial alcoholics I've ever had the pleasure of drunkenly slurring at in a bar. In all my time here (and I've spent a lot of it out in the pubs), I've never seen a violent altercation in a bar. During St. Patrick's Day, when the whole Irish population plus almost as many tourists, were out in the streets hammered out of their minds, there were 600 arrests in the whole country. As one of the lab guys quipped, that's barely one episode of Cops in the States! I think maybe the violent drunks have been selected out of the population, Darwin-style.
The first time I encountered drunks in Ireland, seven or eight years ago, we thought, Okay, best to avoid the drunken Irish boys. But now I remember that we were in Temple Bar, which, as I've learned, no self-respecting Irish person actually drinks in. It's mostly kept in business by tourists and English groups over in Dublin for stag or hen nights. So the leering and drunken shouting? Probably not by Irish people. In fact, the Irish boys here have been perfect gentlemen to me. No matter how drunk, they usually make sure I get myself into a cab and always look faintly concerned if I tell them I'll walk or take the bus. (Not that I've ever had any problems with the bus, or with walking around the city.)
So yes, they may all be alcoholics, but they're the best kind.