The debate over the ban on pubs and restaurants selling alcohol on Good Friday has reignited once again, with some priests supporting calls by vintners’ groups for an end to the practice.
A report in the Limerick Leader newspaper quotes Fr Joe Young, a
chaplain with the Brothers of Charity in Bawnmore, Limerick as saying it
“wouldn’t bother me at all if pubs opened on Good Friday”.
He described the current legislation enforcing the ban as “absolutely
and totally pointless” given the rise of house parties and home
drinking on Good Friday.
People should be allowed to make up their own minds on whether they
drink alcohol on the day, he told the Limerick Leader. But he stressed
that the “real issue is getting lost in this debate”, namely why people
feel the need to drink on Good Friday.
“Ireland’s relationship with alcohol, particularly in the context of
mental health, depression and suicide, has to be examined,” the priest
said and added, “We can’t ignore the [number] of people taking their own
lives and the role that alcohol plays.”
The Iona Institute has highlighted that Ireland is not alone in its
ban, as New Zealand also bans the sale of alcohol on Good Friday.
In a briefing document published to counter the campaign to lift the
ban, the pro family, pro faith think tank argues in favour of the
current law, pointing out that in many European countries there are
customs and laws that place restrictions on various forms of trading,
especially Sunday shopping.
According to the Iona Institute, the principle behind these laws and
customs, and the law against selling alcohol on Good Friday (and
Christmas Day), is the same: “not every day should be dominated by the
dictates of commerce”.
The Institute claims this is the case whether the origin of the law or custom is religious or not.
The Licensed Vintners Association and the Vintners Federation of
Ireland are leading calls for an end to the Good Friday ban on the sale
of alcohol, describing it as “archaic and discriminatory”.
The two groups have claimed that the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1927,
the legislation that gives effect to the ban, damages the tourism
Donall O’Keeffe, chief executive of the LVA, told The Times, “Forcing
pubs and all licensed hospitality businesses to close sends a very
negative signal to tourists and visitors, who are left baffled and
disappointed by the measure.”
In response to the claim that the ban harms tourism, the Iona
Institute highlights that restrictions on trading are commonplace around
Germany and Switzerland have very strict controls on Sunday trading.
Other countries also have less strict controls, but Sunday trading is
still restricted, for example in many parts of France.
Germany is the most powerful economy in Europe. Switzerland is very
wealthy. In these and other countries, tourists are ‘inconvenienced’ far
more regularly than here by trading restrictions, but these countries
believe something more important is at stake, namely the principle that
not every day should be dominated by the dictates of commerce, according
to the Iona Institute.
“Tourism or commerce cannot have the final word in everything. In New
Zealand, they also ban the sale of alcohol on Good Friday, shops close
and TV advertising is not permitted.”
To the claim that the sale-of-alcohol ban is discriminatory, the Iona
Institute highlights that in Britain on Christmas Day, some pubs and
restaurants open, but the big shops stay closed.
It asks: “Does this
discriminate against shops?”
In addition, many countries place all kinds of restrictions on the
sale of alcohol that they do not place on other products. This is not
commonly considered ‘discrimination’.
“Don’t make every day a uniformly commercial day,” the Iona Institute appeals.
“As we have seen, various countries restrict trade, mostly on Sundays
and sometimes on Good Friday as well. They do this sometimes for
historical, religious reasons, but whether the origins of the
restrictions are religious or not (keep in mind also that most holidays
are religious in origin also, hence ‘holiday’, as in ‘holy day’), there
is a rationale for them, which is that some days should be marked out
for special treatment and not every day should be equally commercial.”
Last month, the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association (PTAA) said it
is “fully in favour” of the ban on the sale of alcohol on Good Friday.
Speaking to CatholicIreland.net, James Shevlin, President of the
Pioneers in Ireland, said Good Friday “is just one of two days in the
entire year when alcohol cannot be sold. This represents approximately
0.5% of the entire year.”
However, James Shevlin argues that Ireland has liberal licencing laws
throughout the year and that opening times have increased and have been
extended down the years to give increased trading opportunities.
He stressed that the Pioneer Association is not anti-alcohol; rather members are opposed to the abuse of alcohol.
“We have become concerned, as have many others, with recent
investigations and statements from eminent doctors and experts on the
havoc excess alcohol consumption is having on people’s health. Liver
disease has spiralled in recent times, as have many other effects which
have been associated with excess alcohol consumption.”
He underlined that the A&E departments in the country’s hospitals
are “beyond breaking point with overcrowding, and this is exacerbated
by the extra pressure of alcohol-related admissions.
“Our hospital beds are occupied with up to 2,000 patients with
illnesses related to excess alcohol and in the region of three people
per day die in Ireland for the same reason. These are facts presented by
medical experts. The supply of alcohol needs to be controlled to avoid
this culture going out of control.”
The PTAA president also highlighted that Ireland figures prominently
in European and world tables, especially in relation to binge drinking.
Currently, the PTAA has a membership in the region of 150,000.