Good Friday ban for pubs faces legal test
PUBLICANS hoping to open on Good Friday for the eagerly anticipated Munster-Leinster rugby match are seeking legal advice on how to successfully apply before the courts for an exemption.
Representatives of Limerick's vintners, along with the former defence minister Willie O'Dea and Limerick Mayor Kevin Kiely, met with senior gardai in the city yesterday to outline why they believe pubs should be allowed to open on April 2.
Dave Hickey, who is the proprietor of South's pub in Limerick city, was also at yesterday's meeting.
Mr Hickey, who is also the city's representative on the Vintners Federation of Ireland national executive, said they explained their reasons to gardai why they wanted to open for business on Good Friday.
"It was never our intention to look for an exemption, but at the moment we are still stuck with the same date for the match. The fixture has not been changed and we are still trying to get the organisers to do this," Mr Hickey said.
The publican said they had been left with "no other option" than to apply via the legal route to open on Good Friday. The publicans did not receive any indication yesterday if gardai would object or question their application.
In what would be a landmark case, the Limerick publicans are taking legal counsel on how to successfully apply before the local district court for an area exemption order for the night of the game for six hours. The application would cover all pubs in the Limerick city licensee area. "It is the final option. It looks like we might have to let the courts be the final arbitrator on this," Mr Hickey said.
It is understood that the publicans have to apply for an exemption within the next 10 days and must provide seven days notice to the courts services. The Good Friday date for the biggest clash in domestic rugby was chosen by organisers of the Magners' League, Celtic Rugby.
A spokesman for Munster said they already indicated their "strong preference" to the competition organisers that the game be played on Easter Saturday.
Both Munster and Leinster are competing in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals the following weekend, but it is understood that Leinster favour the Magners' League fixture being played at least seven days ahead of their subsequent game on April 9. At yesterday's meeting in Henry Street garda station, Chief Superintendent David Sheahan and Superintendent Frank O'Brien were told that the windfall from 26,000 sell-out at Thomond Park is worth €10.4m to the city.
The head of the Franciscan Friars in Moyross, Brother Sean O'Connor, criticised those who put money ahead of their faith.
"I heard someone quoted this week who said that rugby is more important than religion -- that's just ridiculous and it's a shame. If you identify yourself as a Catholic then you should be nowhere near Thomond Park or a pub on that day," Brother O'Connor said.