The Government is moving to lift the 90-year-old ban on the sale of alcohol on Good Friday.
Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald is expected to signal in the coming days that she will not oppose a Bill in the Seanad calling for the restriction to be abolished.
Government sources said this is a firm indication of a policy shift from the Minister for Justice. The change is likely to come into effect for Good Friday 2018.
It is expected that the Government will then incorporate the proposals of the Bill, tabled by a group of Independent Senators, into its own legislation aiming to reform the sale, supply and consumption of alcohol.
The Intoxicating Liquor (Amendment) Bill 2017 from Billy Lawless, Victor Boyhan, Michael McDowell and Gerard Craughwell will come before the Upper House next week.
Sources said that the policy move was “coming at some stage” anyway as part of the upcoming reform of alcohol laws, but acknowledged that the Government would probably be beaten on a vote on the Independent Bill in the Seanad if it opposed it.
It was also pointed out that the Bill from the Independents is primarily aimed at pubs, whereas the Government legislation will probably be broader.
The move is likely to be included in the Sale of Alcohol Bill, which is expected to come before the Dáil later this year.
The Sale of Alcohol Bill is intended to replace the laws regulating the “sale, supply and consumption” of alcohol with “streamlined and updated provisions more suited to modern conditions”.
“The decision at this point is to not oppose the [Seanad] Bill, hear the arguments and consider it under in the Sale of Alcohol Bill,” a source said.
The abolition of the Good Friday ban will also be considered alongside the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, which aims to reduce general alcohol consumption in Ireland.
Publicans have long been campaigning for the removal of the ban introduced in 1927.
The legislation provides exemptions allowing the sale of alcohol to those attending events or travelling by sea, rail, air or ferry, at a licensed theatre, and for hotel guests eating a meal.