Saturday 22 July 2017

Norris rails against Dublin pubs 'blasting out ghastly soccer matches'

Senator David Norris
Senator David Norris
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Senator David Norris has slammed proposals to allow the sale of alcohol on Good Friday claiming it's about "money and political correctness".

Mr Norris also railed against Dublin pubs saying that "in my day" they were a place for conversation where you might see Brendan Behan.

"But now it’s huge television screen blasting out music and ghastly soccer matches all the time."

Mr Norris was contributing to a debate on the Bill put forward  by independent senators, including Irish-American businessman Billy Lawless, aimed at ending the Good Friday ban.

The government has indicated that it's not opposed to the law which could see pubs open on Good Friday as early as next year.

Chicago restauranteur and publican Mr Lawless said there are "strong reasons" to end the 90-year-old ban arguing that the prohibition  "actively incentivises binge drinking".

He gave the example of an 18-year-old who can buy ten cans of beer for €10 on Holy Thursday to drink the next day.

He said there would be "clear economic benefits" to selling alcohol on Good Friday, as businesses lose between €30m and €40m at present.

"Tourists amble around the streets looking for the world famous Irish pub atmosphere which they have spent in some cases hundreds of Euros to enjoy to be turned away on arrival," he added.

Independent Senator Frances Black said that while she is passionate about efforts to curb drinking through the seperate Public Health Alcohol Bill, she does support an end to the Good Friday ban,

She said the day has been "marred by excessive drinking in homes" and the "panic buying or alcohol" in the days beforehand. She said pubs are a "regulated environment".

Fianna Fáil Senator Gerry Horkan said "we've moved on as a country" and that nobody would be required to buy alcohol if the ban was lifted.

Labour's Aodhán Ó Ríordáin lamented Ireland's "obsession with alcohol" but said he believes in the seperation of church and state and that if someone wants a pint on Good Friday "who are we to stop them from doing that".

Mr Norris said: "Considering the state of alcohol consumption, the damage it does in this country, I would have thought the last thing we need is another free-for-all on the holiest day of the year."

He dismissed the argument that the ban is bad for tourism asking if anyone had surveyed tourists for their opinion.

He complained Ireland is turning into a "bland theme park"with "green squash topped hats".

Fine Gael Senators Joe O'Reilly and Michelle Mulherin broke ranks with the government's position that it's not opposing the Bill.

Mr O'Reilly said the Good Friday ban is "part of our national identity" and a "non-sectarian part of Ireland's religious tradition".

Ms Mulherin said the government seems "confused" in relation to alcohol policy.

"All we ever hear on public health is we should drink less," she said adding that now it appears "we're mad keen" to get rid of a day when alcohol can't be sold.

"I believe an honest analysis is we have a very confused position in relation to alcohol which probably pretty much represents a lot of the views of the general public," she said.

Junior Finance Minister David Stanton said the government isn’t opposed to the principle underlying the Bill.

The proposed law does not overturn the ban in selling alcohol in restaurants on Good Friday.

Mr Stanton said any reform should not create further anomalies and unfair competition for categories of licence holders.   

The Seanad Intoxicating Liquor (Amendment) Bill 2017 was passed without a vote and now goes to the committee stage.

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