We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

Shutterstock/Creativa Images

Why do we still have this absurd Good Friday alcohol ban for everyone, regardless of religion?

It’s highly ironic that a supposedly modern, inclusive European democracy still prohibits the sale of alcohol on any day of the year.

AT ONE STAGE for Catholic observers, Good Friday was all about compulsory fish, holy films on the telly and an abstention from the booze. Then we all relaxed, fried ourselves a steak and turned on Sky Plus. But Good Friday still remains the only day of the year apart from Christmas Day that we have to stay totally dry.

It’s highly ironic that a supposedly modern, inclusive European democracy still prohibits the sale of alcohol on any day of the year. Isn’t it just absurd that a ban on the sale of alcohol for everyone, regardless of religious persuasion, still exists? Surely, the decision not to drink alcohol, like the decision not to eat meat, is purely a personal one?

Losing our religion 

A third of the 1,000 adults surveyed by Ignite Research maintain that the sale of alcohol on Good Friday should end. One-quarter said they believe the ban lets tourists visiting the country for the Easter holiday down, and more than half agreed that the Church shouldn’t have this kind of influence. The research also found that 25% fear the ban, which will be in place tomorrow, will encourage “binge drinking at house parties” and almost 50% plan to purchase their drinks in advance.

In the last census, 350,000 Irish people either ticked the “No religion” box or else declined to answer the question. That figure rises with every new census. An MRBI poll at the time of the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin showed nearly one in 10 Irish Catholics do not even believe in god, which is kind of amazing.

The Good Friday ban is all down to the 1927 Intoxicating Liquor Act, which prohibited the sale of alcohol on three days each year: Christmas Day, St Patrick’s Day and on Good Friday. This act was revisited in 1962 and the prohibition on Paddy’s Day was lifted as it was affecting tourism. But the ban on Good Friday goes on, even as we become an ever more secular and multicultural society.

Our obsession with the gargle is much stronger than a single day of prohibition

Our national drink problem is no defence for keeping Good Friday dry. Just look at the cars stuffed full of bottles on Holy Thursday, or stand outside the off-licence to see the panic-buying for and the invites to “crucifixtion parties” clogging up your PMs. Our obsession with the gargle is much stronger than a single day of prohibition. Desperate not to be caught out on the Day The Pubs Shut with nothing more to drink at home than two cans of coke and a mushroom cup-a-soup, we all join the queue and emerge triumphant case of Heineken. Father forgive us, we know exactly what we are drinking.

If anyone forgets to stock up you can just check yourself into a hotel, or spend all of Good Friday in railway bars with a ticket to a never-arrived-at destinations in your hands. There’s so many fun ways to defy Church and State this Friday that are more likely to end up with us bingeing our way into Saturday than to abstain. You see, the State’s locking of the pub door just encourages us to rise to the challenge and drink as much as we can, in the manner of a naughty child told not to go near the sweet jar.

A sacred day for Christians – but we’re not all Christians 

Without a doubt this Friday is a sacred day for Christians, a time for reflection and all that. But it doesn’t mean that the rest of us should be left without our glass of pinot noir. Or that hordes of bewildered tourists should be denied a pint of Guinness on their weekend break.

Religious organisations must recognise themselves for what they truly are, which is self-constituted interest groups. They’re civil society organisations which exist to put a point of view across. They have every right to have their say, but in our society they have a massively over-amplified voice, massively oversized footprint in the public sphere, and that’s simply wrong.

Religions have a right to tolerance and respect but they must always give way to the rights of others. We’re still some way from cleansing our public life of all contact with superstition but it’s about time we tried ridding ourselves of this particular vestige of Church-coordinated restraint and had a very good Friday instead: with or without a cocktail in hand.

Lorraine Courtney is a freelance journalist. Follow her on Twitter @lorrainecath.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.