Alcohol can be served for the first time since 1927 on Good Friday in Ireland this year.
Finding a pint of plain on Good Friday in one of the Republic of Ireland’s world-famous pubs has been nigh impossible (legally) for 90 years. That changed on January 31 of this year, when Irish president Michael D. Higgins signed an amendment to the 1927 Intoxicating Liquor Act into law repealing the Good Friday restriction on booze.
The original act represented the increasing influence of the Catholic Church on the Dáil (Ireland’s lower house of parliament) and was ferried through by then minister for justice Kevin O’Higgins. Previously, opening hours of pubs had been tightly regulated, but the act represented the first outright ban on certain days. In addition to Good Friday, the 1927 act also banned the sale of alcohol on St. Patrick’s Day and Christmas Day.
Since its passage, however, the ban has bent often due to commercial worries. As soon as 1929, cracks began in the Church’s hold on alcohol sales, with the Dáil passing special legislation to expand operating hours of pubs on Sundays in celebration of the centenary of Catholic emancipation. In 1960, the ban was amended for Saint Patrick’s Day in an effort to promote tourism. More recently, in 2010, the city of Limerick was granted an exemption to the Good Friday ban on similar grounds so that local publicans could serve alcohol during the annual Munster vs. Leinster rugby game, which occurs each year on the holiday. So far, Christmas is still free of public alcohol sales in the Republic.
The lifting of the ban has been received in both positive and negative lights as its affects range from helping local businesses around the country to the promotion of alcoholism for the sake of tourists.
Independent Senator Billy Lawless, the representative who introduced the amendment to the Seanad (Ireland’s upper house of parliament) in 2017, told the Irish Times, “The passing of this bill is another progressive step in Ireland’s long journey of separation between Church and State.”
Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration David Stanton echoed Lawless, saying upon the bill’s introduction to the Dáil in January that the amendment reflects “changing demographics and increasing diversity in our population,” which has “led to a reduction in traditional religious practice.”
Still, some members of parliament maintain their opposition to the change in Good Friday tradition. Independent TD (member of the Dáil) Maureen O’Sullivan stated that the bill goes against the Irish government’s policies of trying to reduce harm caused by alcohol. “With this bill what message are we sending out? I actually think we could do with a few Good Fridays throughout the year,” she said at the time of the January vote, according to the BBC.
Others against the repeal took up the plight of the publican. “Good Friday is the only day when publicans can take a breather,” TD Mattie McGrath told RTÉ. “The tourists won’t run away because they can’t get a drink on Good Friday.”
By and large, however, the repeal is being widely celebrated among those in Ireland’s food and drink industry. The chief executive of the Restaurant Association of Ireland, Adrian Cummins, shared his positive thoughts on the amendment. “This is long overdue and will be a huge boost for Irish tourism in 2018 and bring Ireland in line with our EU colleagues and competitors.” Highlighting the archaic nature of the law, he also pointed out that a glass of wine can be had with dinner even in the Vatican on Good Friday.
Padraig Cribben, chief executive of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland, said that the removal of the prohibition shows signs of “Ireland’s status as a mature nation.” The VFI claim that the extra day of business could lead to pubs and restaurants making an additional €40 million nationally, with the RAI projecting sales of more than €50 million. The day is also expected to generate more than €7 million in value-added tax and excise duty to Ireland’s exchequer.
Do you think bars and restaurants should be allowed to sell alcohol on Good Friday in Ireland? Let us know in the comments below. Dave Lewis