Hard on the heels of St Patrick’s Day comes Good Friday. The population of Ireland can draw a line under leprechaun hats, blow-up crocodiles, green rivers, drunken debauchery, peeing in people’s letter boxes and the rest. On the day Jesus died to save us all the pubs are shut and everyone goes to Mass, says a round of the Rosary and abstains from all vices.

You really think so? The panic starts at a low level several days before. On online forums (fora?) the whispered conversations – ‘What places will be open?’ ‘Are the pubs in Northern Ireland open?’ ‘What time do the off-licences close on Thursday?’ ‘Do the clubs open at 00.01 on Saturday?’Good Friday 1

The determined drinker will of course find ways and means. Should you rock up in Dublin on Good Friday – as I’ve done several times – you will NOT get seated in your hotel restaurant. The punters cramming the place aren’t too bothered about what’s on their plate as the fact that the bar is open to resident diners. You can however resort to the bar-fridge in your room, a gloomy alternative to the first foamy pint of Guinness you’d been anticipating.

Travellers can get a pint at the airport and one or two main stations. Some private clubs have exemptions. A couple of years ago Thomond Park in Limerick successfully lobbied for their bars to be allowed open on Good Friday for a big rugby match.

I heard one story – possibly apocryphal – about a barge on the Grand Canal that offered lunch at a fancy price and, the minute it cast off to meander up and down the canal, it was exempt from the ‘mainland’ liquor ban.Good Friday 2

But it’s the off-licences that benefit most. From Thursday afternoon punters, wide-eyed with apprehension, form queues and buy mountains of booze. It’s as if Prohibition was descending from midnight. The result is that Good Friday, instead of a day of abstinence, becomes one of the heaviest drinking days of the year. There is really no logical reason to maintain the pretence. Just get the regulation out of the law books, the diminished Catholic Church notwithstanding, and let licensed premises trade normally.

And before I’m accused of having a pop at the Irish I hold a passport with a harp on it. Neither am I immune from the lure of a pint or a nice glass of wine or drop of malt. In fact I think I’ll pop out later for one 🙂