Limerick publicans in court bid for Good Friday opening


PUBLICANS HAVE launched a landmark court bid to allow the sale of alcohol for a rugby game on Good Friday, April 2nd.

Up to 70 bar owners in Limerick lodged an application yesterday with the District Court that they hope will permit them to open on the holy day.

The vintners say they have been left with no choice but to seek the court order after a decisive Magners League match was scheduled to take place at Thomond Park on April 2nd.

The Munster-Leinster clash could be worth up to €10 million to the city. Publicans, backed by politicians including Fianna Fail’s Willie O’Dea, say Limerick cannot afford to lose out on this revenue.

Limerick District Court will decide on March 23rd whether the city’s pubs will open on Good Friday.

Limerick Vintners spokesman and well-know publican David Hickey said his members were well aware of the significance of the move.

“What we’re doing is breaking history here. This will be the first time in the history of the State that pubs will be open on Good Friday. I don’t ever remember it happening and I’m a long time in the trade.”

However, Mr Hickey, who owns South’s bar on O’Connell Avenue, said publicans had wanted the match switched to another day but this was a decision for the rugby authorities and those involved in organising the event.

“Our first option was that the game would take place on the Thursday or the Saturday,” he siad, “but we can’t get a clear message back from Munster, Leinster, Setanta or the Celtic League on that.

“They haven’t said why they won’t play on the Thursday or the Saturday and have forced us into this. You can’t have 25,000- 30,000 fans in Limerick on Good Friday who can’t go to their local pub.”

The move to open on the holy day has sparked controversy and the issue has been hotly debated.

Franciscan friars, who live close to Thomond Park, have called on Catholics to boycott the game and are considering holding a prayer vigil outside to bear witness, they say, to the true meaning of the day. Brother Shawn O’Connor has said that they may re-enact the stations of the cross outside Thomond Park as thousands throng the stadium.

Publicans are sympathetic to those who have qualms of conscience about bars opening.

Mr Hickey said: “We want to open from 6pm to 12pm, when all the religion is over. We want to stay away from the times that the religion is on. We want to give people going to those services some respect as well.”

Mr Hickey said he understood the situation well. “I would never miss Mass,” he added.