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'Good Friday ban makes binges worse'

LAWS banning the opening of pubs on Good Friday could be increasing alcohol abuse, a top medic has admitted. Pubs and off-licences are prohibited from selling drink today, with only limited exceptions.



As a result, off-licences traditionally experience one of their busiest days on Holy Thursday as people stockpile drink.

Even though bars are shut on Good Friday, it is one of the worst days of the year for alcohol consumption and its consequences, emergency medicine consultant Dr Chris Luke said.

"You could say that closing the pubs makes matters worse," he said. Dr Luke was making the point in the context of a debate on the issues, he added.

The pattern of drinking illustrates that pubs may not be source of the problem of alcohol abuse, he told the Herald.

He said in our "post-Christian" society there might well be an argument for doing away with the prohibition.

Leading alcohol abuse specialist Dr Conor Farren said the ban is nowhere near as effective as it was a decade ago.



Beer

In that time, there has been a huge shift towards consuming alcohol in the home, he added.

However, he remains in favour of keeping pubs shut as long as the ban can act as a reminder of the negative consequences of excessive drinking.

"There are supermarket wars going on for the price of slabs of beer. Two years ago, I never knew what a slab of beer was. I hear that term on a daily basis now," Dr Farren told the Herald.

Instead of drinking a six-pack, people are now drinking 24 cans, he said. It means the ban on pubs opening "does not make as much difference as 10 years ago".

However, National Off-Licence Association spokesman Jim McCabe said business is not as brisk for independent stores as it used to be.

"Our industry, the independent off-licences, we have had a bit of hammering because of the way the multiples are selling alcohol," Mr McCabe said, in reference to the price of drink in supermarkets like Tesco and Dunnes Stores.

"The days of queues out the door are a thing of the past."

comurphy@herald.ie


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