Fitzgerald urged to lift ban on Good Friday alcohol sales

Publicans say law more damaging this year with big European rugby clash in Dublin

Publicans have met Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald to call for the lifting of a ban on selling alcohol on Good Friday.  Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times.

Publicans have met Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald to call for the lifting of a ban on selling alcohol on Good Friday. Photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times.

 

Publicans have met Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald to call for the lifting of a ban on the sale of alcohol on Good Friday.

The Vintners Federation of Ireland and the Licensed Vintners Association, which represent publicans outside and in Dublin respectively, said they used the meeting to highlight the importance of the Easter weekend to the pub, hotel and restaurant trades and to ask that licensed trading be permitted on the day.

They said the issue of the ban was especially important this year given that Leinster and Bath are due to clash in rugby’s European Champions Cup in Dublin that weekend.

The publicans said tourists “were baffled and disappointed” to find the country’s pubs closed for business on Good Friday.

Liquor Act

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 The St Patrick’s Day clause was repealed in 1960 to accommodate visitors coming from overseas to celebrate the national holiday.

Leinster has said it is opposed to the Aviva Stadium fixture taking place on Good Friday and has requested a tea-time slot for the fixture on the Saturday. However, broadcasters are likely to dictate if the fixture takes place on the Friday, Saturday or Sunday of Easter weekend.

“Having the game on Good Friday would be a disaster economically, as the local pub owners, restaurants and hoteliers would be up in arms given the loss of business to them,” Lenister chief executive Mick Dawson said, adding that it would dissuade Bath fans from travelling over for the game.

Special licence

Mr Dawson said Leinster might be able to obtain a licence to sell alcohol inside the stadium “but that would be as far as it would go”.

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

The publicans said similar issues would arise again at Easter in 2016 when the centenary of the 1916 Rising will be commemorated. It would be “ludicrous if the hospitality sector was essentially closed on such an important date while other retailers were free to trade normally”, the groups said.

A spokesman for Ms Fitzgerald said the issue of Good Friday trading was being considered in the context of the upcoming Sale of Alcohol Bill but that the drafting was unlikely to be completed until later in the year.

“It is unlikely that any decision will be taken in advance of ongoing work on this Bill although the matter will be kept under review,” he said.