On Good Friday of this year, pubs in Ireland opened for business for the first time in 91 years. Legislation passed in the Dáil in January of this year had amended the Intoxicating Liquor Act, ending the ban on the sale of alcohol.
In 1927 W.T. Cosgrave’s Cumann na nGaedheal government passed the Intoxicating Liquor Act which prohibited the sale of alcohol on Good Friday, Christmas Day and St Patrick’s Day. The Act reflected the respect afforded to the Catholic calendar by the early governors of the Irish Free State.
The prohibition on selling alcohol on St Patrick's Day was removed in the 1960s, while the ban on both Good Friday and Christmas Day sale was retained. In recent years, there had been several attempts to change the law prohibiting the sale of alcohol on Good Friday, but until this this year the ban had remained in place.
Introducing legislation amending the Act, Minister of State David Stanton said that "statutory restrictions of the type that we are repealing in this Bill are no longer in tune with today’s Ireland. We live in a very different society than that which existed when the restrictions were put in place.” 1
The easy dismissal of our long-standing Irish Catholic traditions by the current government is unsurprising. Happily however, not everyone shares the same attitude. Some individual publicans around the country chose to adhere to the traditional practice of closing on Good Friday. The town of Newmarket in Co. Cork saw all of its six pubs remain closed amid widespread local support. 2
The Irish Examiner reported that all three pub owners in the Co. Meath village of Drumconrath also agreed to remain closed on Good Friday. Pauline Fay of Fay’s Bar,explained her decision: “This year, again, myself and my daughter will do the stations of the cross, before doing a bit of shopping together. I don’t think a bit of religion does anyone any harm. I’ve received 100% backing from my customers, some of whom have said that even if I was open, they wouldn’t come in.” 3
Fr Finian Connaughton, parish priest of Drumconrath in Co. Meath, welcomed their decision, saying: “This tradition goes back years. Unfortunately, a lot of Irish rural and Church traditions have been taken over by the powers-that-be in Dublin... I would be totally behind these publicans and their decision, and think it’s a great stroke for this small village, putting their own stamp on things. Most of the village would be Catholic, so I wouldn’t think the majority of their customers would have a problem with the pubs staying closed. 4