‘Maybe if I wasn’t a barman I’d be happy about the lifting of the ban’

On the first Good Friday that pubs can legally open, many Dublin publicans said business was quieter than a normal Friday

 Grace Allen and Emma Ireland from Ballymena enjoying Good Friday drinks in The Auld Dubliner in Dublin. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

Grace Allen and Emma Ireland from Ballymena enjoying Good Friday drinks in The Auld Dubliner in Dublin. Photograph: Dave Meehan/The Irish Times

 

“See that rain? God’s tears,” said a man standing outside the Palace in Temple Bar with a pint of stout in one hand and a cigarette in the other on the first Good Friday in more than 90 years that pubs in the Republic could legally open their doors.

He threw his cigarette into a street slick with rain and went back into the warmth of a pub which wasn’t exactly heaving with drinkers anxious to celebrate the lifting of the long prohibition.

It was a good Friday – but hardly a great one – with many publicans saying business was quieter than a normal Friday.

“I think it’s a sad day, I really do,” said David Leavy as he pulled the occasional pint in McDaid’s on Harry Street. “I think Good Friday closing was one of the things that made Ireland a bit different. And let’s face it, no one has ever died because pubs were closed.”

He suggested Irish people would miss the house parties that became a Good Friday feature for generations. “I suppose it’s just changing times and Ireland really doesn’t have anything to do with religion anymore.

“Maybe if I wasn’t a barman I’d be happy about the lifting of the ban,” he conceded, perhaps a touch morosely.

Sipping a pint of Guinness in the corner of the pub was Nils de Backer, who had just arrived in Dublin from Belgium. “Everyone has been talking about the ban all day,” he said. “I had never heard of it and I’m glad it’s gone. I would’ve thought it very strange if I had been unable to get a pint of Guinness in Dublin.”

Tommy O’ Rourke from Amiens Street had long since worked out ways to get a pint of Guinness on Good Friday, ban or no ban , but as he sipped his stout in Kehoe’s pub on South Anne Street he expressed delight at its disappearance. “It means we don’t have to get the boat to Holyhead anymore. That’s what we used to do. The craic was great and we didn’t just do it for the drink.”

Lashing rain

He described the ban as “ridiculous” and said it was “a church law that had deprived people who weren’t Catholics a drink”.

Christmas Day will be next, he predicted. “It might not happen in the next 10 years ... but as we get more secular that ban will to have to go too.”

Not far away in Davey Byrnes, three men sat at the bar. All “ex-members of the licensed trade”, they had decided to go on a pub crawl to poke gentle fun at all the bar staff who now have to work on the one day they always had off.

“It was a stupid law in the first place,” said Declan McGrath. “We’ve been in a few pubs now and they all seem fairly quiet. I reckon the only ones out are the tourists.”

Many of those tourists ended up in the Oliver St John Gogarty in Temple Bar where a band played Lisdoonvarna as stags and hens queued up to get their faces painted – frequently with their own names.

“It is just a normal Friday now,” a weary-looking barman said. “Looking around, you’d have to wonder what all these tourists would’ve done if we were closed. Just look at the lashing rain. It would have been miserable for them if we couldn’t open.”