The ban on Good Friday alcohol sales should continue, the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association (PTAA) and the Iona Institute have said.
“If we are serious, as a country, about tackling the many problems associated with alcohol misuse, then let us start by protecting the ban on Good Friday and putting our words into action,” said Raymond O’Connor, project co-ordinator of the PTAA.
In that context, “two days out of 365 is not too much to ask”, he said, adding that those two days, Christmas Day and Good Friday, “represent 0.5 per cent of the entire year”.
The Irish Times reported on Saturday that the Government was moving to lift the 90-year-old ban on the sale of alcohol on Good Friday. Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald is not expected to oppose a Bill in the Seanad calling for the restriction to be abolished.
Noting the “many reports highlighting the extent of the impact of alcohol misuse in Ireland”, Mr O’Connor said: “Surely it is not too much to ask for these days to be deemed alcohol-free days and to allow for the ban to remain in place?”
According to Census 2016 figures, "78.3 per cent of the population identify themselves as Catholic. Good Friday marks an important day in the Christian calendar and is a day that is commemorated by many Christians in Ireland and worldwide," Mr O'Connor said.
Groups representing publicans and restaurants have long since argued that the ban should be lifted, but the Iona Institute said “tourism or commerce cannot have the final word in everything”.
It noted how "restrictions on trading are commonplace around Europe. Germany and Switzerland have very strict controls on Sunday trading", while in New Zealand they "ban the sale of alcohol on Good Friday, shops close and TV advertising is not permitted".
Such “countries believe something more important is at stake, namely the principle that not every day should be dominated by the dictates of commerce,” it said.
The institute noted how “on Christmas Day pubs stay closed, just like on Good Friday. Is this law also ‘archaic’? Should we also allow pubs (and perhaps shops) to open on Christmas Day? But what would this do the character of the day? Would it remain a preeminently family day?”
Such trading restrictions were also “frequently defended by trade unions who can see sense in the argument that not every day should be treated the same and not every day should be equally commercial”, the institute said.
“Some days should be marked out for special treatment and not every day should be equally commercial,” it said.