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Pub owners raise bar in bid to end Good Friday drinking ban

Pub owners from Limerick will meet Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy tomorrow to try and overturn one of the last relics of old Catholic Ireland -- the ban on pubs opening on Good Friday.

At stake is up to €5m -- the estimated windfall for the city's pubs, restaurants and shops from fans who will pack into the city for the Magners League clash between Leinster and Munster in Thomond Park on April 2.

Publicans Gerry O'Dea, chairman of the Limerick City Vintners; and Dave Hickie, owner of South's pub in Limerick; met the Garda Commissioner on Friday for exploratory talks.

At tomorrow's second meeting they will try to convince the top garda not to object to a proposed court application to have the eagerly awaited clash between the two titans of Irish club rugby declared "a special event".

The 1927 Intoxicating Liquor Act enshrined the law that pubs can not sell alcoholic drink on Christmas Day, Good Friday and St Patrick's Day.

Since then the law relating to St Patrick's Day has been repealed -- mainly in the name of commerce and to cater for the tens of thousands of foreign visitors who come to Ireland to celebrate the national feast day.

Mr Hickie, whose city centre pub is a landmark for rugby fans, believes one way forward to beat the Good Friday ban is for Limerick publicans to make an application for a special exemption order for this Good Friday

"We want to convince the Garda Commissioner that this match is a special event and we are spending the weekend looking at the laws to try and beef up our case.

"I suppose we will be trying to create a precedent but in my view we are only a short way from a more general challenge to the Good Friday ban," Mr Hickie said.

According to the Liquor Licensing laws, it is open to a publican to make an application before a District Court judge for a "special exemption order". The judge can grant an order after hearing the views of a senior garda in the area.

"If we didn't have the tacit approval of the gardai in the form of them not having an objection, I think we would have a chance. If they object then the application would be very difficult to get through," Mr Hickie added.

The average Magners League game generates between €1.2m and €3.5m to the local Limerick economy, according to consultants BDO Simpson Xavier.

But experts suggest that a Munster versus Leinster game, which is always a 26,000 sell-out, is worth between €3.5m to €5m to local publicans, hoteliers, restaurants and shops.

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