Describing the present law prohibiting the sale of alcohol on Good Friday as an archaic and discriminatory law which has no place in a modern country, the LVA and VFI have called officially on the government to introduce legislation permitting all licensed premises to sell alcohol as normal on Good Friday.
Vintners have been campaigning for two years now to get the law changed and the vintners’ organisations want the Minister for Justice to amend the law in time for this year’s Good Friday.
With the 26th of February being widely tipped as the election date, publicans say the government must act immediately if amending legislation is to be passed in time.
The issue is of particular importance this year as the Ireland 2016 celebrations will very much be focused on Easter 2016. In addition Ireland will play Switzerland in an international soccer friendly on Good Friday the 25th March in the Aviva Stadium.
This week the vintners intend to engage with TDs politically.
The two groups launched their campaign #AboutTime at a press briefing in Buswells Hotel in Dublin.
“The advice we’ve got from Arthur Cox solicitors is that the wording and the detail of the amendment requires a relatively straightforward adjustment,” stated LVA Chief Executive Dónall O’Keefe, “So it’s a relatively straightforward thing for the government to do – if the commitment is there – and we’d be looking for the Minister for Justice to do this before the Dail rises for the elections.”
“There is an impetus about 2016 and the Ireland-Switzerland game,” he continued, “The Aviva bar will be allowed open but when consumers leave the grounds, they won’t be able to get a drink in a pub. There will be 50,000 soccer fans knocking around who can’t get a drink either.”
He continued, “Due to our archaic licensing laws not only will those attending the match be able to have a drink in the stadium but so also will those travelling by train, plane, bus or ferry, those visiting the North, going to the theatre or the dogs!”.
VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben added that the current law amounted to discrimination against the licensed trade and made no financial sense as the exchequer was losing up to €6 million in taxes.
“The Government previously indicated that Good Friday trading would be permitted in the context of the Sale of Alcohol Bill but so far nothing has happened,” he said, “Most other retail businesses are open and trading so why is the licensed trade being treated differently? We know many consumers have a drink at home on Good Friday but they should have the option to go out for one if they so choose. For example this year there are hundreds of thousands of fans around the country who may well want to watch the soccer match on television in their local pubs.”
“It’s estimated that up to a quarter-of-a-million people will pass through Dublin Airport that weekend and many of them will be visitors or Irish people returning to see their families. A visit to a pub is often amongst the highlights of their trip but once again they will be faced with locked doors on Good Friday unless the law is changed.
“We believe there is broad public support for this measure all over the country and it should be a no-brainer for a government claiming to be pro-business and seeking re-election to introduce the required legislation,” he concluded.