Public have had their fill of the cliched 'boozy Ireland' image
Published 03/07/2014 | 02:30
You have to hand it to some of our politicians, and their sense of priority. A few years ago, when the IMF was camped out in Government Buildings and the Fianna Fail-led coalition was presiding over the collapse of the public finances, the Fianna Fail TD Michael Kennedy complained in the Dail about the lack of bilingual elevators in Leinster House.
Yes, the deputy for Dublin North, where unemployment was rife and incomes are falling, pointed out that the lifts used in our parliamentary complex did not have announcements in Irish.
"I hope when we are told we are either going up or going down in the lift," he quipped, "it will be in the cupla focal."
Six days later, all the lifts in Leinster House had announcements in both English and Irish – something that was long overdue, you'll admit.
Would that Leinster House had moved as quickly on the reform of our political system or on saving the public finances.
A bill, published yesterday by Fine Gael senator Imelda Henry (The Intoxicating Liquor Amendment Bill, 2014), to get pubs opened on Good Friday, is in a similar vein.
Here we are, some years on from the economic disaster presided over by the party of the now politically departed Michael Kennedy, but we are still very much paying the price.
Families wonder how they can make ends meet, and people with distressed mortgages are worried that their homes will be repossessed. But Senator Imelda thinks that we need new legislation to get the pubs opened on Good Friday!
The closure of pubs on Good Friday is an old chestnut.
And yet is it not a testament to just how much this closure is not, in fact, a public issue, that despite the almost complete collapse of organised religion and of Catholic abstinence, the public still does not expect that the pubs should be summarily opened on what is one of the few days when they are not open?
They don't open on Christmas Day either, but you don't hear any senators speaking about that.
Of course, many dedicated pub bores, and sociable boozers and extreme libertarians, do think the law should be lifted, as the senator has demanded.
But most sensible people realise that if people really want to imbibe they can drink at home, as many people do now anyway.
They recognise that Good Friday is still, in a residual way, the most important Christian day of the year and not the sort of occasion when people should be slugging pints in our public houses.
It is not a strong feeling, but it is recognition of an old tradition and people respect that.
Indeed, it is a feeling shared by secular and religious people alike, and has even endured into our present multi-cultural post-Catholic society.
Senator Henry's argument is that the Irish pub is a large part of the Irish culture and tourists are missing out with the Good Friday closure.
Interestingly, my experience is the opposite.
I find many tourists, who cherish 'cultural difference' on their travels, respect this old ritual in a once-spiritual country and are also happy to see the cliched image of boozy Ireland being, for once, contradicted.
And this is the other reason the Irish public do not jump to the senator's cause.
We have had our fill of drink in Ireland.
We are attempting to find a way to withdraw drinks sponsorship from sports events and the Government has promised to tackle binge drinking.
Arthur's Day has been abandoned. In this context, opening the pubs on Good Friday looks like a backward step.
And Senator Henry's proposal also raises a question over the relevance of our eccentric Seanad, barely a few months after it was given a lucky reprieve by the voters.
Last month, for example, we had another proposal, also from a Fine Gael senator – Catherine Noone – to look at banning the sirens on ice-cream vans.
This was because ice cream vans were an incitement to children to buy ice cream, and therefore get obese.
Honestly. If these are the great ideas being dreamed up then it is more than pubs on Good Friday that should be shut.