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Poll shows public split on Good Friday drinking laws

By Sarah Mac Donald - 20 June, 2017

“There are only two days in the year when the pubs close, the other one being Christmas Day. In time will they open on that day too?"

A new poll reveals the public is evenly divided over whether or not the country’s Good Friday drinking laws should change.

Last week the government said it intended changing the drinking laws so that alcohol can be served in pubs, clubs, hotels and restaurants on Good Friday.

Originally it intended to lift the ban in pubs only by supporting a Private Member’s Bill.

The poll of 1,000 people was conducted by Amárach Research. It found that 51 per cent of the public support the move and 49 per cent are against it.

Opposition (58 per cent) to the proposed move is strongest among the 18–24 year old age group.

Women are also more likely to oppose the move, with 54 per cent of women against changing the drinking laws on Good Friday; 56 per cent of men support the proposal.

The poll put two statements to respondents and asked them which one came closest to their point of view:
 – Closing the pubs on Good Friday is old-fashioned and out of date and they should be let open
 – Closing the pubs on Good Friday is an Irish tradition we should respect and so keep it that way.

Commenting on the poll findings, David Quinn told Newstalk Radio on Monday that with the country split 50/50 on the issue, the government should be looking for some sort of a compromise.

He referred to Sunday trading restrictions in other countries, which he said “are extremely commonplace”.

Germany, for example, closes all shops on a Sunday, as does parts of France and parts of Italy, Austria and Norway.

However, in some instances a compromise has been arrived at, such as allowing shops to open on a Sunday in tourist areas or in the run-up to Christmas.

Commentator David Quinn suggested that something along those lines could be introduced in Ireland for Good Friday which would allow pubs, restaurants and hotels to serve alcohol in tourist areas while the rest of the country remained as it is.

He rejected the suggestion that the law change was a done deal.

“If enough TDs and Senators – particularly FF – put their hands up and say we can follow a different path, then it is not a done deal,” he said.

Dr John Murray, Chairman of the Iona Institute asked, “Shouldn’t the government think twice before giving in so completely to the vintners and restaurateurs?

“There are only two days in the year when the pubs close, the other one being Christmas Day. In time will they open on that day too? It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the Good Friday drinking laws are regarded as a soft target because the original motivation for the restrictions was religious, as indeed is the motivation for closing the pubs on Christmas Day.

“The government, and Fianna Fáil as well, should look past this and recognise that it is a good idea in itself to have two days of the year when alcohol is not served in public places. We already have a big alcohol problem in Ireland and we restrict pub opening hours and the sale of alcohol for exactly that reason.”

Dr Murray said not every day should be equally commercial.

“This principle is widely recognised in many parts of Europe, including Germany, where shops are prevented from opening on Sundays. The German government has not given in to pressure from commercial interests on this matter; nor has the fact that the reason for closing shops on a Sunday has a Christian origin inclined the government there to open them in reaction against that fact. Other countries like Austria and Norway and parts of Italy, Spain and France also close their shops each Sunday.”

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