As Good Friday approaches and Holy Thursday enters its final hours, Ireland drinks up. The taps shudder to a halt as the clock strikes midnight and remain dry until Saturday. The restaurants and off-licenses lock their doors and supermarkets drag down the metal shutters on the chilled beer and wine and cordon off their booze displays across the country. Boozers storm the shops today and stock up on slabs of beer and crates of wine in a prohibition-fuelled frenzy. There are house parties all around the country on Good Friday. As a student in Dublin, I went to exactly one house party the whole time and that was on Good Friday. I walked home at sunrise.
The Prohibition of Liquor Act 1926 outlaws the sale of alcohol in Ireland on Christmas Day and Good Friday. The St. Patrick’s Day was ban was lifted in the sixties for obvious economic and tourist reasons. Every year the absurdity of the Good Friday ban on booze hits the media and every year the restaurant and pub owners associations lobby the government to lift the ban. Easter Weekend is a Bank Holiday and the first long weekend of the spring/summer where the national and international tourist season kicks-off.
This year thousands of rugby fans from Bath will travel to Ireland tomorrow for the Leinster match on Saturday. English rugby fans like to drink. They will have to guzzle their cans bought on Ryanair tomorrow and then hold their pinkies above china on Fridays as they enjoy their tea on Friday night.
The exemptions are of course the best part to the ludicrous legislation – you can drink on a ferry, train or airplane. Some greyhound tracks have exemptions and in 2010 the pubs in Limerick were got a reprieve because Munster was in the Heineken Cup final. The ludicrous law lets us all act like teenagers again. People try to buy beer in their local shop at the back door. They sneak into hotels and pose as guests so they can drink wine in the restaurant. They chug cans on their train trips down the country.
The madness and shenanigans of Holy Thursday and Good Friday have made me realize that prohibition in the US must have been one crazy party.
On a more serious note, the lingering control of the Catholic Church over public policy through De Valera’s constitution is real. I would personally prioritize booting the Church’s influence out of healthcare, education and RTE (the public broadcaster which has an affection for charming Pope stories). I will leave those issues for another day and open a bottle of wine in celebration of Wet Thursday (fittingly it’s raining). Don’t worry, I bought three more in case of emergency.