DUBLIN, Ireland – Pubs in the Republic of Ireland will now be allowed to sell alcohol on Good Friday, after the lower house of the Irish legislature voted in favor of the measure on Thursday.
The bill had passed the upper house in July 2017, and is expected to be signed shortly by President Michael Higgins.
The bill has widespread support, with a few members of parliament opposing it because of their support for bills meant to combat the overconsumption of alchohol.
David Stanton, a junior justice minister, commented that “Tourism makes a much greater contribution to our economy and this is particularly true during holidays, such as the busy Easter period. In addition, changing demographics and increasing diversity in our population have led to a reduction in traditional religious practice.”
“Taking all these factors into consideration the Government considered that it was an opportune time to have an examination of the Good Friday restrictions,” he stated.
Stanton noted: “We live in a much different society than we did when the restrictions were put in place,” saying they “are no longer in tune with today’s Ireland.”
The bill was introduced by Senator Billy Lawless, who called it “another progressive step in Ireland’s long journey of separation between Church and State.”
One Fine Gael senator, Joe O’Reilly, had opposed the measure, saying pub closings on Good Friday is part of Ireland’s national identity, and is a non-sectarian “part of our religious cultural heritage.”
“I also think that we shouldn’t give in to every fad and every whim of commercialism,” O’Reilly stated. “If there is money to be lost, so be it, if there’s a valuable national priority to be maintained.”
The sale of alcohol had been prohibited by a 1927 law which also banned its sale on Christmas and St. Patrick’s Day. The ban on St. Patrick’s Day was lifted in the 1960s or ’70s, though that on Christmas Day remains.
Donal O’Keeffe of the Licensed Vintners’ Association told Today FM that the industry is not calling for pubs to be opened on Christmas, as it is a “special day for families. There are no calls from anyone in the license trade to look to do that.”
In Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom, pubs can only serve alcohol between 5 pm and 11 pm on Good Friday. The territory also has restrictions on the serving of alcohol on Holy Thursday and Holy Saturday.