Leading article

Compelling message of hope from Dead Rabbit pub entrepreneur Jack McGarry

Jack McGarry back at home in north Belfast. Picture Mal McCann.

While considerable attention has rightly been focused on the catastrophic consequences of drug abuse, the story of Jack McGarry is a stark reminder that alcohol and depression remains an equally deadly combination.

Together with fellow north Belfast man Sean Muldoon, he made an astonishingly successful entrance into the New York City licenced trade in 2013.

Their cult business The Dead Rabbit was not only named as the best pub in the world but Mr McGarry was the industry’s international choice as top barman.

He was well on his way to earning a fortune, he was socialising with celebrities and in every respect, as our powerful report today sets out, he was living the American Dream.

However, when his career should have been reaching new heights in the spring of 2016, he was on suicide watch in a Manhattan hospital after taking a lethal mix of prescription medication and drink.

Mr McGarry (30), who described his experiences as an alcoholic with notable frankness, has been sober since that night, but still attends weekly therapy sessions and AA meetings in New York.

He has returned home to help promote understanding of mental illness and, with Mr Muldoon, has donated £10,000 to the Northern Ireland charity Aware, which supports those affected by depression.

His intervention was timely as it came just days after a Belfast coroner presided over a joint inquest into the deaths of four men as a result of alcohol abuse.

Evidence was given that one of the deceased, who was 36, would routinely drink 100 cans of beer until he eventually succumbed to acute pancreatitis and alcohol-induced liver disease.

Studies indicate that an alcohol-linked fatality officially takes place here almost every day, and, although the level has risen by 30 per cent over the last decade, there are fears that including the actual causes of a range of accidents and even some cancers would result in much higher figures.

Mr McGarry is one of the lucky ones who survived and is now in a strong position to highlight the importance of seeking help.

He has spoken openly about his darkest periods, how he let people down and almost became another tragic statistic before eventually being able to take the opportunity to turn round his circumstances

His commendable aim is to let vulnerable and struggling individuals know that they are not alone but they need to be ready to make major changes to their lives.

Mr McGarry is proof of what can be achieved and he deserved to be commended for putting his compelling testimony into the public domain.

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