Ireland ends nearly century-old ban on alcohol sales on Good Friday

FILE PHOTO: Hugh Farren from Ireland's most Northerly bar, Farrens, pulls a pint of Guinness in his pub on Malin Head in Ireland May 11, 2016. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Ireland’s parliament agreed on Thursday to end the state’s prohibition of alcohol sales on the Christian holiday of Good Friday, saying society had changed significantly since the restrictions were put in place almost a century ago.

The shutting of bars and banning of sales in shops on the day Christians commemorate Christ’s death have long been opposed by publicans and restaurant owners, who have argued that they lose business during the busy Easter holiday weekend.

Their battle ended up in the courts eight years ago when a judge granted an exemption to pubs in the western city of Limerick to allow drinking during a match between two provincial rugby rivals.

The restrictions have largely been in place since the 1922 foundation of the Irish state and their lifting is a further symbol of the changing face of once stridently Catholic Ireland.

“The Government believes the time is right to end the restrictions. We live in a very different society than that which existed when they were put in place,” Ireland’s junior justice minister, David Stanton, told parliament on Thursday.

The legislation, originally introduced by an independent member of Ireland’s upper house of parliament, passed without a vote being required.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Peter Cooney