Ireland's long-suffering publicans finally have a reason to toast the government after plans were unveiled to extend pub and club opening hours.

The country's ailing hospitality sector has been the hardest-hit in Europe, with many struggling businesses forced to remain closed for the past 12 months.

But the Department of Justice has signaled a much-needed boost for the ravaged sector in the form of a relaxing of the country's licensing laws.

The changes, which have been welcomed by the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA), are likely to come into effect once the health restrictions on the hospitality sector are lifted.

According to a report in the Irish Daily Star the reforms, which could be given the green light later this year, will allow nightclubs to remain open past 2:30 a.m., while pub opening hours on Sundays are set to be extended.

Justice Minister Helen McEntee said plans to overhaul the country's licensing laws were needed to boost the beleaguered hospitality sector once the virus has been suppressed sufficiently to allow premises to reopen.

Noel Anderson, vice chairman of the LVA, describes the plan as "a step in the right direction.”

The Star also noted that the measures being considered include a reform of the trading laws for the sale of booze in pubs and off-licenses.

Under the proposals, the Sunday trading hours could be brought in line with the longer hours permitted for the rest of the week.

The proposals also include a new annual nightclub permit to allow for longer opening hours. As things stand, nightclubs and late bars are obliged to obtain a special exemption order from the District Court for a “special occasion.”