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Irish pubs renew fight to open bars on Good Friday, slamming 'archaic' alcohol licensing laws

Pub owners in the Republic of Ireland have renewed their fight to get bars opened on Good Friday, claiming the ban on the sale of drink is archaic.

Vintners - the pub federation - is asking the Government once again to open bars and hope to use the precedent for a rugby match in Limerick to cash in on the Republic of Ireland soccer international in Dublin on March 25.

But with an election looming there are only weeks left to amend laws to allow drink to be served on one of only two days in the year when pubs traditionally keep their doors closed.

Similar laws exist in Northern Ireland, where social media campaigns have unsuccessfully called for changes.

The Licensed Vintners Association (LVA) and the Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI) said reversing the old ban should be a no-brainer.

Donall O'Keeffe, chief executive of the LVA, said they had legal advice which suggested it would be a straightforward reform which would have to be passed by the Oireachtas.

"Every Good Friday we have thousands of tourists wandering around the streets of our cities and towns asking why they can't go into a pub for a drink," he said.

"Those numbers will be boosted this year because of the Easter 2016 celebrations. We are also going to have up to 50,000 soccer fans in Dublin facing the same problem outside the stadium."

While fans inside the Aviva stadium for the Good Friday match can have a drink the pubs on the streets around the ground will be shut.

Other well-rehearsed options for people seeking to get out for a drink on the holy day are going to Harold's Cross greyhounds, travelling by train, taking a ferry out of the country and checking in a for a flight at the airport.

The vintners said they have been lobbying Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald since 2014 but nothing has been done.

"It would be ridiculous if the entire hospitality sector was again forced to close on Good Friday 2016 because of a law passed in 1927," Mr O'Keeffe said.

The VFI claimed the State loses out on six million euro in tax with the Good Friday ban.

Padraig Cribben, chief executive, said: "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.

"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."

The ban is enforced under the Intoxicating Liquor Act which was introduced 89 years ago.

Originally St Patrick's Day was included in the closure order along with Christmas Day but that section was repealed in 1960 due to the huge numbers of people coming to Ireland from abroad.

Other than exemptions for transport, alcohol can only be bought in a theatre or sold to hotel guests, but on occasion prosecutions of restaurateurs who serve drink with meals have been dropped.

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