Priest 'saddened' by vintners' bid for holy day opening
A LEADING church man and staunch Munster fan wants a public debate on the sacred nature of Good Friday as publicans campaign to be allowed to open for business on the holy day.
The vintners are meeting the Limerick city garda chief today to look for special permission to open on the day of the crunch Magners League rugby match on April 2 between Munster and Leinster.
But rector of the Redemptorist Church in Limerick, Fr Adrian Egan, has questioned whether the match should go ahead and believes that there are many people who want Good Friday to remain a special day when restrictions are observed. Fr Egan says he will not even attend the match himself on the day.
"I suspect that a lot of people are saddened by it. Not because of the pubs being shut and the money lost but because something much bigger and more important than any match is being commemorated on that day. It's a day when we focus on the event of the death of Jesus.
"I would like to see our leaders, like our local politicians, reflect on the issue and not just from the position of the pubs and the money lost. It is the one day that is different and that allows us the opportunity to reflect, so it would be a pity to see it being changed without some serious debate."
There are fears that if Limerick pubs are allowed to open on Good Friday that it could spell the end of its traditional treatment as a sacred holiday. Fr Egan also wondered whether all the players were necessarily in favour of having to play on that day.
"I know that Donncha O'Callaghan says his prayers before matches and Ronan O'Gara is a regular church-goer. There is a Scottish international player who won't play on a Sunday -- he would rather forego his place on the team."
Fr Egan, who regularly attends games at Thomond Park, also spoke of the day's importance as a means of tapping into personal suffering.
"I remember growing up and Good Friday was always different. There was something emotive about it and it had a sombreness to it. That allows you to tap into and reflect on personal suffering and psychiatrists would argue that it's important to do that."
But yesterday Limerick vintners said they meant no disrespect by opening on Good Friday. They have joined forces with local politicians to call for a special licensing exemption because the day is expected to be worth up to €5m to the local economy.
Publican and owner of South's bar, David Hickey, said: "Nobody really wants to open on Good Friday but this is a special sports event. It's really not about the money, it's about the craic and showcasing Limerick. If the hotels and clubs can open, then why can't we?"
If gardai deem the match a special event then the vintners are this week expected to apply to Limerick District Court for an exemption to the licensing laws.