Pubs to remain closed on Good Friday, says Frances Fitzgerald

Publicans campaign for end to ban, saying it affects business and confuses tourists

 

Pubs will remain closed on Good Friday 2016 despite a campaign from vintners for the alcohol ban to be lifted.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald on Thursday ruled out an imminent change to the trading rule. “I won’t be doing it this year,” she told RTÉ radio. But she added that it is an issue that would be considered under new alcohol laws.

Publicans said they were extremely disappointed with Ms Fitzgerald’s decision not to introduce legislation which would permit all licenced premises to serve alcohol on Good Friday this year.

The Licensed Vintners Association (which represents Dublin pubs) said its members and the public at large will struggle to understand the rationale behind the Minister’s decision. “Our legal advice was that the law only required a minor legislative change,” said its chief executive Donall O’Keeffe.

“This is a lost opportunity not just for publicans but for the capital city and the tourist sector as a whole. This year there was a particular urgency around this issue given the Ireland 2016 celebrations would focus on the Easter weekend and that we have an international soccer friendly between Ireland and Switzerland taking place in the Aviva Stadium on Good Friday itself. Once again thousands of tourists and holiday goers are going to be at a loss wondering why they can’t go to a pub for a drink” O’Keeffe said.

Publicans had called on the Government to lift the ban on the sale of alcohol on Good Friday and on Monday launched the #AboutTime campaign.

“The Minister has had ample time to repeal this archaic law,” said Padraig Cribben of the Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (which represents publicans outside Dublin). “ Frankly it’s an embarrassment that this legislation is still in force in 2016. Both the VFI and the LVA have had a very positive reaction to our #AboutTime campaign and we were very hopeful that the Minister would finally move on this issue this year.”

He continued: “Previously the Minister indicated that Good Friday trading would be permitted in the context of the Sale of Alcohol Bill and she has had plenty of time to advance that legislation.

“Most other retail businesses will be open and trading but once again the licensed trade will be closed. For a Government which claims to be pro business and seeking election it makes no sense.”

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.