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Saturday 16 December 2017

Claire Byrne: Should we keep the ban on Good Friday drinking?

The decision to hold the Munster v Leinster rugby match on the one day fans cannot watch it in the pub has added fuel to the debate about our annual no-alcohol days: on Good Friday drinking?

NO: It’s a throwback to conservative Catholic Ireland of the 1920s. We’ve moved on and should be free to drink

Those who made the rules in 1927 decided that bars should not be allowed to open on Good Friday. How right they were. In 1927, a conservative and staunchly Catholic Ireland would have welcomed the confirmation in law that the day should be observed by abstinence.

But it's not 1927 anymore. It is 2010 and it's about time that we repealed the outdated legislation and acknowledged that Ireland has moved on.

I asked listeners to Newstalk Breakfast on Twitter whether they believed that pubs should be allowed to open on Good Friday. The response was unanimous -- live and let live, said the replies, allow people to drink if they want.

That same morning, we spoke to Limerick priest Fr Adrian Egan on the show, who said that he was saddened by the decision to hold the Munster v Leinster game on Good Friday this year. He feels that it erodes part of our heritage by breaching the solemn tone of the day.



BELIEFS

As someone raised in the Catholic faith, it is easy for me to identify with his view. Good Friday was always a special day and one that was essential in preparation for Easter Sunday. However, we have no right to force others, who do not share our traditions or beliefs, to observe them.

Fr Egan was far from being a fire and brimstone man of the cloth about it all. As a rugby fan, he was sad for himself because he couldn't enjoy the game as he felt it would breach his own religious devotion if he went to the match and therefore would have to miss it. Whether the bars were open or not didn't exercise him so much.

He has a point. Scheduling the game for Good Friday means that some Catholics will feel they have to miss it in order to honour their faith. The opening of bars is a separate and different dilemma.

Most of us will be required to work on Good Friday -- it is not a bank holiday but those of all faiths and none are forced to obey its strict rules. If we are the progressive, multi-cultural country that we often proclaim to be, then we should embrace all faiths and allow individuals to make their own choices.

A tradition when I was a student was to organise a party for Good Friday. The rebels would gather as much alcohol as they could in the lead up for a session in someone's house or apartment. The same will happen this year and off licences are sure to do a roaring trade on Holy Thursday as party planners get their stocks in.

So who are we kidding? There are plenty who will want to drink on Good Friday and they will manage it. For others, going out for a knees up would be abhorrent, but Ireland can cater to both preferences by allowing everyone to make up their own minds. Bars should be allowed open if they wish. Staff should be given the option of working or taking the day off, if their religion requires it.

Those who want to observe Good Friday should be allowed to do so without condemnation, but those who don't, should also have the right to do as they please, even if it means having a few drinks and watching a match down in the pub.

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