'They don't even close the pubs in the Vatican on Good Friday': Dublin publican

Update 7.15pm: A publican has heralded the lifting of the Good Friday pub opening ban as putting Ireland finally on a par with the Vatican.

Time is to be called on the 90-year prohibition this Easter, after politicians voted in favour of reform.

Ronan Lynch, owner of The Swan pub on Dublin's Aungier Street, said the long-awaited shift in licensing laws would be a boon for the hospitality sector and the overall economy.

"They don't even close the pubs in the Vatican on Good Friday and yet we do," Mr Lynch said.

"It's my understanding that we're the only country in the world that closes on Good Friday. It's bananas.

"But that will be consigned to the history books now."

President Michael D. Higgins is expected to sign the reform into law in the coming days.

Since 1927, Good Friday has been one of only two days of the year when publicans have been obliged to keep their shutters down, the other being Christmas Day.

The new law will give all licensed premises the right to open.

Mr Lynch said the decision would have a knock-on effect on the rest of the economy.

"It is not just about pubs," he said.

"It is about people eating out, getting taxis, going to restaurants.

"I've heard cases of men arriving in Dublin airport on Good Friday and taking the bus to Belfast when they found out the pubs would be closed."

The change will bring an end to the consternation among tourists who arrive in the country for the Easter weekend.

The Dawson Lounge manager Stephen Reynolds said the lifting of the ban was going to have a massive impact on tourism.

"Lots of tourists visit that weekend, and they're usually walking around wondering, saying 'why is nothing open?' I've had to try to explain it [to them] and they just don't get it," he said.

But as the seventh generation owner of family-run Dublin pub John Kavanagh, which is known as The Gravediggers, Anthony Kavanagh

said he was somewhat torn by the ban being lifted because it meant they would no longer have a day off.

"From a family point of view, it's a little bit inconvenient but from an economic, customer and employment point of view it makes sense," Mr Kavanagh said.

Publican groups, frustrated by the restrictions, have been lobbying for change for years.

Licensed Vintners Association chief executive Donall O'Keeffe said the extra day's trade would be a welcome boost to the sector.

"This change is a win for our customers, our tourists, our suppliers and the wider hospitality sector," Mr O'Keeffe said.

"The fact the Bill received all-party support illustrates there is little opposition to Good Friday trading, as has always been the case for retailers in other sectors."

Fianna Fail TD Jim O'Callaghan said it was sensible to remove the prohibition.

A loophole in the current law allowed alcohol to be sold under certain circumstances on Good Friday.

"It used to be the case that people would go to the dog show where you could buy alcohol and get a drink on Good Friday," Mr O'Callaghan said.

"There were occasions where people would go on the train, if you had a ticket for the train, you could buy alcohol on the train.

"We've also heard examples of people, when they go into restaurants, maybe putting wine in the teapot, which really undermined the law."

He added a ban on selling alcohol on St Patrick's Day was removed because of its impact on tourism.


Earlier: Publicans raise a glass as time is called on Good Friday ban

The Dáil has this afternoon passed legislation which will allow public houses serve alcohol on Good Friday.

Introducing the amendment to the Intoxicating liquor Act bill, Minister of State David Stanton explained why the government were supporting the amendment.

"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 practise.

"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 said.

Reacting this afternoon publican representative groups, the Licensed Vintners Association (Dublin publicans) and the Vintners Federation of Ireland (Outside Dublin),described the Good Friday ban as archaic and discriminatory, have welcomed today’s news.

Speaking following the vote, Padraig Cribben, Chief Executive of the VFI, thanked Independent Senator Billy Lawless who proposed the Bill.

“Along with the LVA we have been fighting to overturn this archaic law for the past decade,” said Mr Cribben.

“Today’s decision would not have been possible without the tireless work of Senator Billy Lawless and former Senator Imelda Henry,” he added.

Mr Cribben also paid tribute to Michael McDowell, Victor Boyhan and Gerard Craughwell who co-sponsored the Bill in the Seanad. Senator Gerry Horkan also provided invaluable assistance with the Bill.

Donall O’Keeffe, Chief Executive of the LVA, said the decision to allow the sale of alcohol on Good Friday was long overdue.

“Removing the ban is simple common sense,” said Mr O’Keeffe. “The large number of tourists visiting Ireland at Easter were confused by a law that made Ireland appear out of touch with the with the rest of our European neighbours.

“The extra day’s trade at such a busy time of year will be a welcome boost. This change is a win for our customers, our tourists, our suppliers and the wider hospitality sector,” he added.

“The fact the Bill received all-party support illustrates there is little opposition to Good Friday trading, as has always been the case for retailers in other sectors.”

Among those TDs who opposed the removal of the ban independent TD Maureen O'Sullivan suggested the bill would not help in the fight to reduce the harm caused by alcohol.

"So I wonder how many tourists have been put off coming to Ireland because there is a day when public houses are not open?

"With this bill what message are we sending out?

"I actually think we could do with a few Good Friday's throughout the year."

More reaction as we get it ... 

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