‘God bless the minister, whoever he is’

WILLIAM CARROLL sipped his first pint of the day.

“God bless the minister, whoever he is,” he purred.

Stepper Flanagan’s early house in Limerick’s High Street was already well in gear and the clock hadn’t struck eight.

A despondency which hung over early morning pubs lifted yesterday with a government U-turn on a decision to cease early pub hours.

Limerick has eight early pubs which are licensed to open from 7.30am, Monday to Saturday.

Stepper Flanagan’s pub — better known to locals as “Norberts” — has been a welcome early haven for William Carroll for as along as he can remember.

William, 65, said: “I live alone over in St Mary’s Park and I have no business hanging around the house. I might have five or six pints and go home.”

Ian Curtis was a later arrival having finished his night shift.

He said: “I have been working nights for 10 years in a manufacturing factory. I finish and come in for a few pints at around 8.30. I find it relaxing after coming from work. The decision to end early pubs was disgraceful. There is never trouble in the early houses.”

As well as drink, The Horse and Hound in Mulgrave Street does a very strong breakfast trade.

Owner Noel Nicholas comes in after 7am with a chef to get things ready.

As it is near the Limerick jail, prison officers come in after duty for a drink or some food.

Noel said: “People have drink, food and both. I don’t know where the Government were coming from with their earlier decision. You don’t see public order problems coming from early houses. They provide a facility for many people who work unsocial hours. We lobbied politicians. They listened and thankfully they took our view on board.”

Limerick’s best known early house, The Moose, in Cathedral Place, has been run for generations by the Tobins. Paddy Tobin said: “Years ago we opened at 5am and the place would be packed with bakers from a nearby bakery and workers from the pig factories. The cattle mart was across the road so many’s the animal was sold in the bar in the small hours of the morning.”

Paddy, who has run the pub for 27 years, comes in every morning to open up at 7.30am. “We get a good few night workers. There was a lot of gloom around up to yesterday over the decision to stop early houses trading. We have to get a licence every year in the court as it is an exemption and if somebody is not running a premises well, the licence can be withdrawn,” said Paddy.

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