Public split down the middle on Good Friday drinking laws says new opinion poll

Press release from The Iona Institute 

Public split down the middle on Good Friday drinking laws says new opinion poll

June 19, 2017 – The public is split almost exactly 50/50 on whether or not we should change our Good Friday drinking laws.

The poll, conducted by Amarach Research, was commissioned by The Iona Institute. This week the Government said it intends changing the drinking laws on Good Friday so that alcohol can be served in pubs, clubs, hotels and restaurants on that day. Originally it intended to lift the ban in pubs only by supporting a Private Member’s Bill.

The poll of 1,000 people found that 51pc of the public supports the move and 49pc are against it. Interestingly, opposition to the move is strongest among the youngest age group surveyed, namely the 18-24 year olds. In this age group, opposition rose to 58pc.

Women are also more likely to oppose the move. Fifty-four percent of women are against changing the drinking laws on Good Friday while 56pc of men support the proposal.

The poll put two statements to respondents and asked them which one came closest to their point of view.

The two statements said:

  • Closing the pubs on Good Friday is old-fashioned and out of date and they should be let open

  • Closing the pubs on Good Friday is an Irish tradition we should respect and so keep it that way.

Commenting on the poll, Dr John Murray, Chairman of The Iona Institute said: “Given that the public is evenly divided on the issue of the Good Friday drinking laws, shouldn’t the Government think twice before giving in so completely to the vintners and restaurateurs?

“There are only two days in the year when the pubs close, the other one being Christmas Day. In time will they open on that day too? It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the Good Friday drinking laws are regarded as a soft target because the original motivation for the restrictions was religious, as indeed is the motivation for closing the pubs on Christmas Day. The Government, and Fianna Fail as well, should look past this and recognise that it is a good idea in itself to have two days of the year when alcohol is not served in public places. We already have a big alcohol problem in Ireland and we restrict pub opening hours and the sale of alcohol for exactly that reason.”

He continued: “Not every day should be equally commercial. This principle is widely recognised in many parts of Europe, including Germany, where shops are prevented from opening on Sundays. The German Government has not given into pressure from commercial interests on this matter nor has the fact that the reason for closing shops on a Sunday has a Christian origin inclined the Government there to open them in reaction against that fact. Other countries like Austria and Norway and parts of Italy, Spain and France also close their shops each Sunday”.

Dr Murray concluded: “Perhaps a compromise can be found here that could reflect the 50/50 split among the public. In some countries with Sunday trading restrictions, shops are allowed to open in tourist areas. Maybe we can do something similar here in the case of pubs and restaurants. This would surely satisfy all fair-minded people”.