Last Orders

Why can't I get a drink on Good Friday?

Today is one of two days you can’t buy alcohol in Ireland – why?

TODAY IS ONE of two days in the Irish calendar when you can’t buy alcohol.

The fact that most people are off work and the day begins a four-day weekend means that despite that fact, Good Friday is one of the biggest drinking days of the year.

Many nightclubs will will open right after midnight, meaning that the day and evening are essentially pre-drinking for some.

But, where does the law come from and why does it still exist?

A 1927 law

The prohibition was originally included in the Intoxicating Liquor Act, 1927, which set out closures for three days.

It shall not be lawful for any person in any county borough to sell or expose for sale any intoxicating liquor or to open or keep open any premises for the sale of intoxicating liquor or to permit any intoxicating liquor to be consumed on licensed premises at any time on Christmas Day, Good Friday, or Saint Patrick’s Day.

The law was a copy of a similar law that was instituted in Britain at the time, with Good Friday also a no-go for alcohol drinkers there. St Patrick’s Day was subsequently removed from the closed days, leaving just the Christmas Day and Good Friday.

But why Good Friday?

The two days that pubs are closed are two of the most significant in the Christian calendar, marking the birth and death of Jesus.

The closure is meant to be used as a mark of temperance and something of mourning for the church.

According to the Catholic News Agency;

The Church – stripped of its ornaments, the altar bare, and with the door of the empty tabernacle standing open – is as if in mourning. In the fourth century the Apostolic Constitutions described this day as a ‘day of mourning, not a day of festive joy,’ and this day was called the ‘Pasch (passage) of the Crucifixion.

Because Ireland was very much a Catholic country at the time of the law, the tradition was carried on and is still maintained to this day.

Why maintain it?

Much is made about the maintenance of the law.

It was suggested that the law will be reviewed in the next year, with the Department of Justice saying that a new alcohol bill is slated, but not saying whether or not the new rules will repeal the Good Friday rules.

“The Government Legislation Programme provides for the publication of the Sale of Alcohol Bill.

“This Bill will modernise and streamline all the laws relating to the sale and consumption of alcohol by repealing the Licensing Acts 1833 to 2010, as well as the Registration of Clubs Acts 1904 to 2008, and replacing them with updated and streamlined provisions.

“The details of the Bill will be finalised following consultation with relevant interests and appropriate proposals will be brought to Government for their consideration in due course. ”

The Restaurant Association of Ireland argue that the law is antiquated, citing the sale of alcohol in Rome on Good Friday.

The Licensed Vitners Association want the practice ended, having successfully argued for the law to be suspended in Limerick in 2010 for a Munster match.

Alcohol awareness charity Alcohol Action say that the discussion shouldn’t be about one or two days, but about a larger problem with alcohol.

“There appears to be a rush to stockpile drink on Holy Thursday, but that is part of a wider conversation.

“Alcohol is so normalised in our society that we don’t realise that harmful drinking is taking place across Ireland every day.”

Read: Where can I get a drink today?

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