Make St Brigid’s Day a bank holiday, Minister urges

Minister of State Martin Heydon submits proposal on idea to Taoiseach and Tánaiste

Martin Heydon said a February bank holiday would be a welcome boost for the tourism sector during a quiet time for visitors. File photograph: Douglas O’Connor

Ireland has nine bank holidays a year and a call has been made to introduce a tenth one to mark the first day of spring and bridge the gap between the January slump after New Year’s Day and St Patrick’s Day on March 17th.

Minister of State for New Market Development Martin Heydon has submitted a proposal to Government to make St Brigid's Day on February 1st a new public holiday, which he said could in some way recognise the enormous sacrifices made by Irish people during the Covid pandemic and highlight better times ahead.

Minister Heydon, who represents Kildare South, said: “We all remember the annual making of St Brigid crosses from our school days.

“Her feast day on February 1st marks the first day of spring and it is the season when we celebrate hope and new life on Earth.”


Mr Heydon’s call echoes that of the Tourism Taskforce which in a report last October said there should be a discussion about whether a new public holiday should be introduced during the off-peak holiday season.

Its tourism recovery plan for 2020-2023 points out that Ireland has fewer bank holidays than countries such as Spain (12) and France (13) and suggested that an increase in bank holidays would create additional domestic high spending short break demand and would extend the tourism season.

February, July and September are the only months without a public holiday.

In his submission to the Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, and Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin – Mr Heydon said it would be a welcome boost for the tourism sector during a quiet time for visitors and a bank holiday on February 1st “would bridge the considerable length of time between existing public holidays on January 1st and March 17th”.

The Fine Gael parliamentary party chairman said, “Brigid, considered a patron saint of Ireland, held a unique position in the early Irish church. Scholars tell us that she presided over the local church of Kildare and was head of a double monastery for men and women.

“She challenged both men and women today to create a church and a society where man and women are equally respected. At a time when all sectors of our society are working together to ensure equality for all in our country, St Brigid was ahead of her time in this regard.”

The Minister said visitors already come to Kildare from all over the world seeking to walk in Brigid’s footsteps.

“From this perspective, I see many opportunities for increased tourism opportunities linked with an increase in the celebration of St Brigid in Ireland and around the world, focused around a new public holiday.”

He added: “I believe this would also be a very fitting way to recognise the sacrifices of the Irish people during the Covid pandemic and highlight the hope ahead made more significant by confirming a new annual public holiday on February 1st.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times