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Don't repeal Easter booze laws, clerics tell Stormont


CONCERN: David Clements

CONCERN: David Clements

CONCERN: David Clements

The Christian festival of Easter will be gone under Stormont reforms of the licencing laws, church leaders have warned.

Presbyterian and Methodist leaders also warned of a 'tsunami' of addiction issues in the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis.

And they have urged MLAs to include legal protections for staff who do not want to have to work at Easter.

Methodist minister David Clements warned of a "tsunami of harm" coming from alcohol abuse.

"We do not know what the outcome will be in a year's time, post-Covid. Although much less alcohol has been consumed in restaurants, pubs and so on, my gut feeling is that the amount of alcohol consumed in homes has increased significantly. Who is to tell what health impact that will have in a year's time or five years' time?" he asked.

And Presbyterian Lindsay Conway added: "In some ways, society now has a different view on alcohol. We were very much a culture in which alcohol was seen as the demon drink, and, at times, we did not teach our young people that safe drinking may be achievable.

"Research has pointed to binge drinking having come from that culture."

They were among those addressing the Assembly's Communities committee which is examining new legislation on liquor licensing including pub opening times and restrictions.

Their work fell into abeyance when Stormont collapsed in 2017 but the new law will provide flexibility on opening times on Good Fridays.

Rev Clements, who chaired the Methodist Council on Social Responsibility, said: "For Christians, you might say that Christmas and Easter are the two most significant festivals. We know that Christmas has been overrun with alcohol misuse, and it would be a shame if Easter followed suit."

The committee accepted a suggestion from Alliance member Kellie Armstrong to write to Economy Minister Diane Dodds who oversees workplace legislation to ensure that Christians are protected "and that there is a way for them to refuse to work over Christian holidays".

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