Saturday 21 September 2019

David Quinn: Easing pub ban isn't progressive, it's just immature

The lifting of the ban on pub opening on Good Friday is reflected in these T-shirts, which went on the market after last week's court decision
The lifting of the ban on pub opening on Good Friday is reflected in these T-shirts, which went on the market after last week's court decision

David Quinn

With the church down, even the publicans are moving in for the kill. They have Good Friday in their sights. Champions of freedom one and all they are demanding the right to serve alcohol to their customers 365 days a year.

Was it merely coincidental that a decision was made to hold the Munster-Leinster rugby match in Limerick on Good Friday? If anything was guaranteed to put pressure on the Good Friday ban this was it.

And what a year to apply the pressure. The Catholic Church has never been weaker.

It is almost incapable of fighting back.

This is where the scandals have led us. The opportunity is being seized to mop up the last remnants of old, Catholic Ireland once and for all. The church's critics are going after the big things -- church-run schools -- and the small things, the Good Friday ban.

Priests abused children, therefore there should be no Catholic schools. Priests abused children, therefore pubs must be allowed to serve alcohol on Good Friday and Christmas Day. The logic here is rather dubious, but what the hell, we're in a bad mood with the church so it's time to settle old scores.

The Good Friday ban is anachronistic, we're told. It is a relic of a by-gone era that is now simply embarrassing.

And offensive. And mildly oppressive.

No one is making religious people drink on Good Friday, they say. No one's forcing Christians into pubs. What gives them the right to tell other people who don't share their beliefs not to go into pubs as well?

Where to begin? Oh yes, let's start with the hypocrisy of it. The publicans and their supporters want to have it both ways. The only reason Good Friday is a day off for many people, the only reason it is different from most other Fridays is precisely because it is Good Friday.

If it was a normal day, then the pubs would indeed be open. But if it was a normal day everyone would be at work as well. However, instead of following their logic to its bitter end, those who want the pubs to open as normal on Good Friday, also want it to remain a day off for most people.

That's pretty neat, don't you think? It's a way of having your beer and drinking it too. So let's be consistent instead. Let's make Good Friday a completely normal day. Let's open the pubs and let everyone go to work as well.

Or better still, let those who still believe in Good Friday have the day off and let those who don't go to work, and then into the pubs afterwards if that's what they want.

I was in Barcelona a couple of weeks ago. Barcelona is a very secular -- sometimes militantly secular -- city. But on Sunday almost all of the shops close.

Now, if Barcelona was as stupidly secular as Ireland is becoming, Barcelona would allow the shops to open on Sunday on the grounds that the motivation for closing them was religious, and there can never be a good religious reason for doing anything.

But Barcelona decided to approach the issue a bit more rationally. They said, ok, the original reason for closing the shops on a Sunday was religious, but then they asked themselves if there was a good underlying motivation for this custom as well.

Having engaged the brain-cells a bit they decided there was a good reason, namely that it made a lot of sense to have one non-commercial day each week when the incessant materialism and consumerism of modern life could be switched off, at least a bit.

That way, Sunday would have a better chance of being genuinely a day of rest, of being a family day, a day in which to concentrate on your relationships with the 'significant others' in your life.

This is also why the Germans don't allow their shops to open on a Sunday and it is why a European-wide campaign is being launched against a new move by the EU which threatens the right of member-states to make Sunday a non-commercial day.

Closing the pubs two days of the year is similar in its logic to closing the shops one day a week, every week. It is a break from the norm. Not everyone likes it, but on the whole it is judged to be beneficial for society. In the case of the Sunday rule, it is a way of putting families first and the market second.

In the case of Good Friday and Christmas Day, it is a way of putting families first and drink, or at least pubs, second. In other words, it provides a chance to put first things first.

We're told it would be a sign of 'maturity' to open the pubs on Good Friday. In fact, it would be the height of immaturity to do so simply because of a mindless, knee-jerk reaction against religion and the church motivated by the current mood of anger.

dquinn@independent.ie

Irish Independent

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