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Plea over Northern Ireland's 'archaic' Easter licensing laws

By Staff Reporter

Northern Ireland's bars and restaurants will miss out on £16m thanks to the ban on selling alcohol on Good Friday, a leading industry figure has claimed.

Hospitality Ulster chief Colin Neill warned that the province could be left behind by the Republic, which plans to lift a 90-year-old restriction on the supply of alcohol on Good Friday.

The new law is expected to be in force for Easter next year.

Mr Neill said: "Once again we are left lagging behind our second largest tourism market and nearest competitor, the Republic of Ireland. With their progressive licensing laws that offer customers what they want and a Tourism VAT rate of 9%, it's Northern Ireland that will lose out, and that's a fact.

"You only need to visit Carlingford this Easter and watch the buses arriving from the north to see just how much we lose every Easter."

Mr Neill said that "this is not just about one day; we have restricted sales over the entire Easter weekend".

"The hospitality industry will lose out on over £16m of income - money that pays the rates and wages, and sustains many small business across the province," he said.

He urged politicians to work to restore Stormont to allow reforms to go forward.

"The Assembly had made some progress to amend our licensing legislation, but that Bill fell when the Assembly fell," he added.

"We don't do politics, but this is another clear example of how no devolved government is impacting our economy and I would appeal to our elected representatives to find a way to re-establish the NI Assembly and implement a Bill that will make real changes to our licensing laws."

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