Here’s why you can’t buy drink on Good Friday

As Good Friday arrives, the Irish public are once again split on the tradition banning the sale of alcohol during the religious festival.

Here’s why you can’t buy drink on Good Friday

Publicans claim the entire hospitality sector comes to a halt, while off licences prepare themselves for a bumper business evening on Holy Thursday.

But why Good Friday? And why is Ireland alone in this? Well, the same rule used to apply to St Patrick's Day, believe it or not.

Trouble brewed since 1924

The rule prohibiting the sale of alcohol came into effect in the 1924 Intoxicating Liquor (General) Act, a version of which is still used today. The original allowed for extensive prohibited hours, and reads:

"It shall not be lawful for any person in any county borough to sell or expose for sale any intoxicating liquor or to open or keep open any premises for the sale of intoxicating liquor or to permit any intoxicating liquor to be consumed on licensed premises … at any time on Christmas Day, Good Friday, or Saint Patrick's Day."

Those three days coincide with the birth and death of Jesus, and the national holiday. The Department of Justice commenting this week that the ban has "historical origins", but the legislation itself doesn't mention religion explicitly.

Back in 1960, a newer version of the act repealed the Saint Patrick's Day ban, giving it the same rules for alcohol trade as a Sunday.

However, the provisions banning the sale of alcohol on Christmas Day and Good Friday were never repealed, and stay in effect to this day. The Christmas Day rule is less contentious, as most shops are closed on that day.

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Hopping on a train and other exceptions

As many an Irish person knows, there are ways around the Good Friday ban. From throwing a party with alcohol bought the night before.

• Hotels can serve alcohol as part of a substantial meal.

• Harold's Cross greyhound racing stadium has a full exemption.

• If you are a "bona fide traveller" (genuine), the acts allow for the purchase of alcohol at train stations, airports, and ferry terminals.

Publin.ie, Dublin's premier pub website, has published their annual guide to getting a drink on the day. It's quite extensive, listing "joining the military" as an option.

Which might be a bit far to go for a drink.

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Changes ahead

For those who dislike being restricted in their choice by a religious event, take heart in the idea that this year could be the last Good Friday where the law applies.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald announced that the Good Friday ban will be considered in light of the Public Health (Alcohol) bill in the near future - but had previously stressed no changed would be made in time for this year.

The Licensed Vintners Association, who represent hundreds of pubs, hope change will be enacted before Easter 2016.

"The Ireland 2016 celebrations will have a particular focus on Easter 2016 and it would be hugely embarrassing if this law was still in place for such an important event.

"It's a terrific opportunity to showcase our capital city and it would be ridiculous if the entire hospitality sector was again forced to close on Good Friday."

Still, those in favour of retaining the ban have a fine point - can't we avoid having a drink for just one day?

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