Open the pubs on Good Friday

Part of the way we celebrate Easter in Ireland is that a certain percentage of the population suffers unduly on Good Friday because the sale of alcoholic beverages is banned. These people lead the annual moan about the pubs being closed for the day.

This year we got a head-start on the annual moan thanks to the fact that the authorities in charge of rugby have scheduled a big game between Leinster and Munster in Limerick on Good Friday night. The pub owners of Limerick, worried about the trade they might miss out on, are leading the campaign to be allowed to open for business on Good Friday.

Those for whom the DT's kick in at the very thought of Good Friday have joined the publicans in the bombardment of the airwaves with their plaintive cries asking us to feel their pain, their need.

This goes on annually. Every year the cries grow stronger and the sympathy for the sufferers greater. There is only one obstacle to the change needed by these poor people - the Catholic Church.

Or so they imagine. The airwaves are full of "this is not a theocracy" or "in this day and age the Church should not ..." and so on.

Well here's one Catholic that has heard their cry and is now joining the chorus: 'open the pubs.' Honestly, I've got no problems with pubs being open on Good Friday.

I'm no theologian by a long shot, but my little bit of research turned up no Church law requiring Catholics to abstain from alcoholic beverages and certainly nothing requiring that the civil law mandate that public houses be closed on Good Friday.

It's not a Church law. It's a government law based on an Irish custom. Maybe this custom is rooted in the traditional folk practices of Irish Catholics, but still it's an Irish custom and not a Church law. And like I said, as a Catholic I couldn't care less whether people buy a pint or ten on Good Friday.

However, as a resident and taxpayer and the father of impressionable youngsters living in this country I worry about it. I worry that as a nation we seem to need alcohol.

I'm not a teetotaler and enjoy being in the pub on occasion, but still I worry that the old customs are being replaced by new customs, such as celebrating the vomit, vice and violence that comes with too much drinking. The whole tone of city and town centers late at night is much more menacing than it was in the past.

Stereotypes notwithstanding, Ireland used to have one of the lowest per capita alcohol consumption rates in the EU. However, over the past 20 years Ireland has gone from being near the bottom to the top of the table. In 1990 the average Irish person consumed 6% more alcohol than the average American. By 2006 that gap was 40%.

Pubs used to be closed on Saint Patrick's Day too, but I don't feel less Catholic for that change having been made. The subsequent street violence and rioting have no impact on my faith. Same will be true on Good Friday. So go ahead and open the pubs on Good Friday.

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