Gardaí object to Good Friday opening

 

Gardaí today objected to a landmark court bid by publicans that could see them open for business on Good Friday.

Limerick District Court was told by the city’s state solicitor, Michael Murray, that a rugby clash between Munster and Leinster at Thomond Park did not constitute a special event. The Magners League game must be deemed to be one to qualify for a court order that would permit bars to open on Good Friday.

The city’s publicans sought to prove that the match is indeed such an event, and therefore qualifies for an area exemption from the licensing laws.

The court heard that gardaí had two difficulties with the application, which was made by Jerry O’Dea, chairman of the Limerick Vintners’ Federation. Firstly the area it covered was wider than had been expected and secondly there was a legal impediment – the absence of a special event. “I think that is the real nub of the matter,” said Mr Murray. Solicitor for the publicans,

Gearóid McGann, agreed that the central nub of the case was whether the rugby game was a special event.

In evidence Mr O’Dea said that 58 pub owners had attended a meeting and given their unanimous support for the application. “I would say that it’s a special event because of the large number of people coming to the town,” he said. Later he added: “In my opinion it’s the biggest domestic game of the year.”

Mr O’Dea told the court that his members were shocked by the scheduling of the match on Good Friday and alarmed because they wouldn’t be able to facilitate fans. They wrote to the sides involved in the game and also to the Magners League but it could not be switched.

Mark O’Connell from accountants BDO Simpson Xavier also gave evidence supporting the publicans. He said it was estimated that the game could be worth up to €7.3 million to the city if the pubs are allowed to open.

Mr McGann told the court that no legal definition existed to explain what a special event is. He quoted case law on the matter, referring to historic actions concerning a mart and a dance. Mr McGann also gave Oxford dictionary definitions for the words.

Judge Tom O’Donnell will give his decision tomorrow.