Publicans call on Government to scrap Good Friday alcohol ban

#AboutTime campaign wants ban lifted before 1916 commemorations

Publicans have called on the Government to lift the ban on the sale of alcohol on Good Friday, describing the current law as “archaic” and “discriminatory”.

The Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) and the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) on Monday launched the #AboutTime campaign, urging the Government to allow the sale of alcohol as normal on Good Friday.

Publicans said it was important to lift the ban before the 2016 celebrations which will be focused around Easter. The Ireland Switzerland international friendly also takes place on Good Friday, March 25th, at the Aviva Stadium.

They warned the Government must act immediately to amend the legislation ahead of the general election.


Donall O’Keeffe, chief executive of the LVA, said the current law was an imposition on small family businesses around the country during one of the busiest tourist weekends of the year.

“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,” said Mr O’Keeffe. “Those numbers will be boosted this year because of the Easter 2016 celebrations.”

Mr O’Keeffe estimates the industry suffers a loss in turnover of between €40-€50 million through closing on Good Friday , with €6 million in lost taxes to the exchequer.

Chief executive of the VFI Padraig Cribben said Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald had last year indicated she had "no great objection" to permitting trading on Good Friday but that so far nothing had happened.

“Most other retail businesses are open and trading so why is the licensed trade being treated differently?” asked Mr Cribben.

“We believe there is broad public support for the measure all over the country and it should be a no-brainer for a Government, claiming to be pro business and seeking re-election, to introduce the required legislation.”

Mr Cribben added that the rate of pub closures around Ireland has slowed down, with 2015 witnessing a level of recovery in bar sales.

“I think what we’re seeing is the resilience of the trade. The bar trade... has responded very well, very quickly and very effectively and efficiently to the challenges of the last number of years.”

Publicans met with the Minister for Justice last year over the alcohol ban, warning that tourists “were baffled and disappointed” to find the country’s pubs closed for business on Good Friday.

Publicans warned at the time that it would be “ludicrous” for the hospitality sector to be “essentially closed” during the 1916 commemorations.

The Intoxicating Liquor Act, when introduced in 1927, said alcoholic drinks could not be sold on Christmas Day, Good Friday and St Patrick’s Day. The St Patrick’s Day clause was repealed in 1960 to accommodate visitors coming from overseas to celebrate the national holiday.

The legislation provides exemptions allowing the sale of alcohol to those attending events or travelling by sea, rail, air or ferry. Alcohol can also be sold in a licensed theatre. Guests staying in hotels can be served alcohol, as long as it is taken with a meal.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast