Publican senator calls for end to Good Friday drinking ban
A PUBLICAN senator is proposing new legislation that would allow pubs to open on Good Friday.
Fine Gael's Imelda Henry has published a new bill that would make it legal for pubs to open and serve drinks on the Catholic holy day.
She said it no longer makes sense to keep pubs closed at a busy tourist weekend when many visitors to Ireland find it hard to find somewhere to eat.
Ms Henry is a pub owner from Sligo who was nominated to the Seanad by the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI).
She published her private member's Intoxicating Liquor Bill 2014 yesterday and is aiming to put it to a vote in the Seanad shortly.
Ms Henry said that 60pc of Irish pubs now serve food and it is no longer realistic to expect them to close on a day when most shops, restaurants and businesses were open.
"I believe that the closure of pubs on Good Friday is a legacy of our past, which does not recognise the massive changes in the country and the manner in which pubs have changed in recent times," she said.
"It was particularly obvious last year during the year of the Gathering when it was very difficult for people to find somewhere to eat."
'Holy hour' – when pubs were forced to close in the afternoon – was also a thing of the past and the same should happen with the Good Friday ban on alcohol sales in pubs, she said.
She said allowing pubs to open on Good Friday would not contribute to alcohol abuse, as people didn't go to pubs to get drunk anymore and most publicans were responsible about not serving people who had drunk too much.
The Government was advancing more effective ways to tackle alcohol abuse through minimum pricing legislation, segregation of alcohol from groceries in supermarkets and a ban on print advertising of cheap alcohol, Ms Henry added.
"I come from a border county and I've seen people flocking across the border on Good Friday to stock up on alcohol in supermarkets," she said.
She said the only group she felt might be opposed to her proposal was the Catholic Church.
Bishop Eamonn Walsh, Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin, said last night that it is a matter for the civil authorities to decide on the context and content of legislation – but that this should serve the common good.
"The sale of alcohol on Good Friday is an issue on which Christians can make up their own minds based on an informed conscience and on the content of proposed legislation," he said.
The VFI welcomed the new bill and said it made sense to open on Good Friday.
Ms Henry denied that there was any conflict of interest in her addressing the issue of the sale of alcohol on Good Friday, saying: "I represent the interests of publicans in Leinster House."
The senator's husband, Aidan Meehan, owns the Blue Lagoon pub in Sligo, which had been run by her father as a nightclub in previous years.