The lifting of this ban is a historical bookmark. For all my life in Ireland, pubs did not open on Good Friday and the parts of the shops that sold alcohol were covered up, or marked off. Once, aged about 17, I was in a supermarket located in a housing estate on Good Friday, an elderly lady who seemed to be in her dotage was asking why she could not find the aisle where the sherry was kept – she wanted it for her Easter trifle! Some sales assistants kindly explained to her why it was illegal to sell alocohol - on Good Friday. Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean played in the background, interrupted every now and then with announcements for discounts on Easter eggs, and that extra points were being given to loyalty card owners.
‘Oh God in Heaven!’ she said and clapped her hand to her mouth, ‘sher I know! I know! It’s Good Friday, and at my age you’d expect me t’know I shouldn’t be buying drink today. I’ll get the sherry tomorrow. You must think me a right alco!?’ She put back her basket, turned around and said to them, ‘but to be honest, it’s Good Friday, I can’t buy sherry, but should ye be working today? I get in a tizzy – can’t remember you can’t buy drink - with all the shops open all ‘bout the place.’
I can still remember her walking out of the shop, shaking her head, drawing her cardigan close to her, cross that the open supermarket blaring 1980’s pop music, had made her forget Good Friday, and probably bothered that she had been caught out as doddery. Maybe someone should tell her that she can buy all the sherry she likes on Good Friday now. But somehow, little old ladies and their trifle making on Good Friday was probably not the reason that ‘they’ lifted the ban.
This week, a court order lifted the ban that formerly prohibited the sale of alcohol on Good Friday; its sale is now permitted. Both the triumphant welcome that greeted the lifting of ‘the Irish Good Friday ban’ and the couldn't-care-less-attitude - are actually quite disturbing. Furthermore, journalist David Quinn, who I have long admired for his frank and intelligent insights, doesn’t shy from asking; ‘was it merely coincidental that a decision was made to hold the Munster-Leinster match in Limerick on Good Friday?’ David Quinn’s very balanced view is available at: http://www.independent.ie/opinion/analysis/david-quinn-easing-pub-ban-isnt-progressive-its-just-immature-2122204.html
T-shirts celebrating the lifting of the ban, and the rolling-with-liquor rugby match went on sale after the court decision. Discussion of money is vulgar, but is it integral to the scrapping of the ban, that Irish rugby administrators sometimes rely too heavily (as in the UK) on companies that make adult beverages for sponsorship? The drink companies are obviously profiting – but it’s actually too easy to blame them per se. Who’s buying the rugby tickets and the pints? Individual Irish people – many of whom if the stats are correct - are from families where their grandparents were very devout and fulfilled their Good Friday devotions with a solemnity of spirit. Perhaps, the adage 'the past is a foreign country - they do things differently there' is appropriate here. My nationality is Irish, but this 'let's have drinks all round' addition to Good Friday makes me feel uneasily alien this Easter.
PS – This is a tad melodramatic – but when I read the t-shirt slogan, ‘officially bigger than the Catholic Church, Munster Rugby, Good Friday’ I couldn’t help but think of the slogan ‘God Himself couldn’t sink this ship’ on the Titanic.