The protest was led by TJ McInerney from TJ Macs Pub in Mullinahone, County Tipperary, who spoke to the media as he spearheaded the demonstration with fellow publicans, politicians and supporters outside Dáil Éireann.
The protest had been organised before the Government decision to re-open all pubs on 21st September and followed TJ appearing on local media some days ago to give an emotional account of how the closure was affecting his business and of how he’d had to raid his childrens’ college funds in order to keep a roof over his head.
“The bank will be getting in contact with me in October about my next mortgage payment and at this point in time I’m not all too confident.”
The announcement to re-open wet pubs on the 21st of September “means everything,” he told the media outside Leinster House, yesterday, “It gives us back our sense of dignity and our sense of pride. We’re seen to be fighting for our local community.
In the pub trade for the last 21 years now, he confirmed that a Cork consultancy firm had approached him with a view to buying up his licence, most likely for a grocery outlet off-licence. He’d turned down the “vultures” claiming that their offer, a “detrimental insult”, was one that he’d taken very personally.
While he’d organised his protest prior to Justice Minister Helen McEntee’s announcing that the Government was seeking to re-open wet pubs he was by no means certain even now that the proposed re-opening date would necessarily come to pass having seen three other dates being pushed out by government.
“We’re hurting badly,” said the publican who’d galvanised support from his colleagues in Tipperary, “We need fair play. Fair play is the word today.
“A suite of solutions is what I’m going to present to Micheál Martin today. Micheál Martin – fair play is the call of the day. That’s the order of the day Micheál.
“We want to be viable. We want to make tax returns.
“I’ve had various community meetings of groups of 15 throughout the week in Mullinahone asking me to tell Micheal Micheál how they feel. We want our GAA back too Micheál.”
The protest served to raise awareness about the plight of rural pubs and the fact that they’d been closed for so long and needed support to survive now, until they could trade normally again.
It also served to highlight the strong sense among rural publicans that they’d been abandoned by the government.