Takeaway delivery firm 'inciting drunkenness' with hangover hotline
A hangover hotline offering free fast food in Belfast over the St Patrick's weekend has been accused of "trivialising" binge drinking.
The offer is being run by bicycle delivery company Deliveroo and promises "a sympathetic ear to customers' tales of mischief and woe" between 10.30am and 1.30pm tomorrow. Customers with an entertaining story will be rewarded with £13 credit to order "a delicious hangover cure".
The offer is also available to revellers in Cork, Dublin, Galway and Limerick.
A statement from the company added: "We want to give those struggling from the previous night a chance to claim some free credit so they can order their ideal hangover cure from their favourite local restaurants.
"Setting up a St Patrick's Day recovery hotline is our way of providing a shoulder to cry on, and if they've got an engaging story, we'll reward them with €15 (£13) Deliveroo credit that they can put towards a delicious pick-me-up meal and begin the hangover healing!"
The company denied it was promoting excessive drinking.
However, Ulster Unionist councillor Jim Rodgers called the offer "totally disgraceful, unnecessary and just a PR stunt".
"Obviously it's too late now to persuade them not to go down this road, but I've never heard anything like it in my life," he said.
"The problems we've had in Belfast over St Patrick's in past years have been unbelievable. People blocked out of their minds, then to have this the next day, that's only encouraging people to get tanked."
Mr Rodgers said the offer worked against efforts by Belfast City Council, the universities, Belfast Metropolitan College and the PSNI to discourage binge drinking.
"I begin to wonder sometimes about the mindset of these companies when they think of doing something like this," he said.
"As a former Lord Mayor and long-serving councillor, in all my years in public life I've never heard anything like this happening before. It's certainly not sending out the right message, or good for our city."
Ray Farley from the Holyland Regeneration Association has long campaigned against excessive drinking in the student area of south Belfast, particularly over the St Patrick's period.
He said Deliveroo was "trivialising" binge drinking and hangovers.
"This is just psyching people up to act stupidly," he claimed.
"It's a particularly bad message. The main problem in the Holyland area of Belfast on St Patrick's and other days is excessive consumption of alcohol.
"This is obviously encouraging excessive drinking. A hangover is actually causing you brain damage, that's why your head is sore, and there's damage to other internal organs.
"If you're treating a hangover as a frivolous event, asking for good stories, then I think Deliveroo are trivialising the issue and it's not the message we want in the Holyland."
Responding to the furore, Deliveroo denied the offer was irresponsible.
"Our hotline was created to give customers something to smile about on St Patrick's Day weekend," it said.
"It's not a competition and there are no rewards for anti-social behaviour, obviously. All we want is for people to pick up the phone and tell us how they spent their St Patrick's Day, whether they took part in a parade, visited family or just hung with friends on their day off, that's entirely up to them."