Ireland’s annual Good Friday alcohol ban is today being greeted with the same warm welcome we usually reserve for water meter installers and English stag parties.
All the usual arguments are being made for and against. “Ah sure it’s only one day/what does it say about our country if we can’t go without drink for one day,” “I don’t believe in God so I shouldn’t have to be stopped from buying it,” “it costs the country €700 billion on lost tax revenue,” “think about the children,” “Poor aul bar staff, sure they never get a day off,” “ask me bollix…” etc.
The whole reason the law exists is thanks to a piece of legislation from 1924. The Intoxicating Liquor (General) Act of that year states:
“It shall not be lawful for any person in any county borough to sell or expose for sale any intoxicating liquor or to open or keep open any premises for the sale of intoxicating liquor or to permit any intoxicating liquor to be consumed on licensed premises … at any time on Christmas Day, Good Friday, or Saint Patrick’s Day.”
The Paddy’s Day ban was scrapped in 1960 but the rest of the legislation still stands. Other laws that existed in 1924 that have since been scrapped are:
- The death penalty for suicide. Up until the Criminal Justice System in 1964 the penalty for taking one’s own life was death by hanging.
- Anti Witchcraft Law which stated “Any person who shall pretend or exercise to use any type of witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment, or pretend knowledge in any occult or craft or science shall for any such offence suffer imprisonment at the time of one whole year and also shall be obliged to obscursion for his/her good behaviour.”
- Anti Blashpmay Law which made it illegal to publish material “grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion”.
- Whoops, that last one is actually still the law after only being introduced in 2009
In a 2009 court case in Galway, where nine restaurants pleaded guilty to having alcohol for sale on Good Friday, Judge Mary Fahy said prosecuting them was ‘ludicrous’ in today’s world and she refused to record a conviction.
Only last year Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said she would consider lifting the ban on drinking on Good Friday in time for the 1916 commemorations. Unfortunately, as is usually the case with politicians promises, she failed to get it over the line in time and now we have the usual scenes today of confused looking foreign holiday makers walking around town wondering why all the pubs are shut.
Of course both the Vintners Federation of Ireland and the Licensed Vintners Association are up in arms saying it’s “no way to kick off one of the main bank holidays of the year.” It’s great to know the publicans of this country feel so passionately about us. Hopefully this benevolence will still be present the next time they decide to hike up the price of drink.
Ireland is still one of the very few parts of the planet where you can’t buy a drink on Good Friday. You can even buy alcohol today in the headquarters of the Catholic Church, The Vatican. In fact, according to statistics released by The Wine Institute two years ago they found that more wine is drunk per person in the Vatican City than in any other country in the world. The figures showed that residents of the Vatican consume 74 litres of wine on average, roughly equivalent to 105 bottles over the course of a year.
That’s around double the amount drunk by the average person in France or Italy as a whole, and triple the quantity consumed here.
So tell me again why we’re not allowed buy alcohol today…