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Publicans say 'archaic' Good Friday alcohol ban should be lifted ahead of 1916 centenary

They say extra tourists will be in Ireland for the centenary, as well as the Ireland vs Switzerland game.

Image: Shutterstock/wavebreakmedia

PUBLICANS HAVE ISSUED a fresh appeal for the ban on selling alcohol on Good Friday to be lifted.

Representatives from the industry have described the law as “an archaic and discriminatory law which has no place in a modern country”.

The two main representative groups, the Licensed Vintners Association (Dublin publicans) and the Vintners Federation of Ireland (outside Dublin) have called on the government to immediately introduce legislation to treat Good Friday as an ordinary trading day for pubs, restaurants and hotels.

Publicans say there is particular impetus to lift the ban due to the 1916 centenary celebrations and as Ireland will play Switzerland in a friendly soccer international on Good Friday, 25 March. They have estimated they lose between €30 and €40 million by closing on Good Friday.

Oliver Hughes of Porterhouse Central and Lillies Bordello in Dublin said nightclub owners are particularly badly affected as they have to close on the Thursday night before Good Friday as well as on the day itself – losing income from two nights.

As the general election is likely to take place next month, any change to legislation would have be put forward immediately if it were to be passed by the Oireachtas.

Speaking at the launch of the About Time campaign, Donall O’Keeffe, Chief Executive of the LVA, said the organisation has received legal advice that says lifting the ban would only require a “very minor amendment to the existing law”.

IMG_20160118_110333 O'Keeffe (left) at the press conference. Source: Órla Ryan/TheJournal.ie

He said a bill put forward by Fine Gael Senator and publican Imelda Henry in 2014 could be used for this purpose.

“Every Good Friday we have thousands of tourists wandering around the streets of our cities and towns asking why they can’t go into a pub for a drink. Those numbers will be boosted this year because of the Easter 2016 celebrations. We are also going to have up to 50,000 soccer fans in Dublin facing the same problem outside the stadium.

Due to our archaic licensing laws not only will those attending the match be able to have a drink in the stadium but so also will those travelling by train, plane, bus or ferry, those visiting the North, going to the theatre or the dogs.

“It would be ridiculous if the entire hospitality sector was again forced to close on Good Friday 2016 because of a law passed in 1927,” O’Keeffe concluded.

O’Keeffe said publicans have been making representations to various Justice Ministers on this issue for years, and have been discussing it with Frances Fitzgerald since June 2014. TheJournal.ie has contacted the Department of Justice for comment.

Loss to the Exchequer

Padraig Cribben, CEO of the VFI, said the current law amounts to discrimination against the licensed trade and made no financial sense as the exchequer was losing up to €6 million a year by the measure.

The government previously indicated that Good Friday trading would be permitted in the context of the Sale of Alcohol Bill but so far nothing has happened. Most other retail businesses are open and trading so why is the licensed trade being treated differently?

“We know many consumers have a drink at home on Good Friday but they should have the option to go out for one if they so choose.”

The LVA and VFI represent about 4,600 publicans across the country.

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Órla Ryan

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