I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."
I am very pleased to have the opportunity to introduce the Intoxicating Liquor (Amendment) Bill 2017, the objective of which is to remove restrictions on the sale of intoxicating liquor on Good Friday. This Bill began its journey as a Private Members' Bill in the Seanad. During Second Stage discussions there, I made it clear that the Government was not opposed in principle to the amendment of intoxicating liquor legislation aimed at permitting the sale and supply of intoxicating liquor on Good Friday. However, the Government was acutely aware that the Bill as drafted fell short of what was required in order to reform the rules governing the sale of alcohol on Good Friday in a comprehensive and non-discriminatory manner. That is why, on Committee Stage in the Seanad, the Minister tabled a number of amendments to the Bill to ensure the proposed changes in the Good Friday rules could be introduced without creating further confusion and anomalies in the legislation.
Legislation restricting the sale of intoxicating liquor on Good Friday has been with us since before the foundation of the State. These restrictions were carried over and reinforced after 1922 and have remained largely untouched since. It must be recognised, however, that the economic and social life of this country has changed dramatically over the past two decades. Tourism makes a much greater contribution to our economy and this is particularly true during holiday periods, such as the busy Easter period. In addition, changing demographics and increasing diversity in our population has, as confirmed by recent census data, lead to a reduction in traditional religious practice. Taking all those factors into consideration, the Government considered, when this Bill was first initiated, that it was an opportune time to have a thorough examination of the current Good Friday restrictions. As I mentioned, the Minister introduced a number of amendments to the Bill on Committee Stage with a view to ensuring that changes to the Good Friday rules would be consistent and would not create further anomalies in intoxicating liquor legislation. The changes made in the Upper House are contained in the Bill before us today, and I will turn now to the content of the legislation.
Section 1 is a standard provision relating to the Short Title and collective citation for the Act. Section 2 provides for a number of amendments to sections 1(1), 201), 4(7), 14 and 56(1) of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1927. The amendment to section 2 of the 1927 Act has the effect of removing the ban on the sale of intoxicating liquor in public houses and off-licences on Good Friday. The amendments to sections 4(7), 14 and 56(1) of the 1927 Act will ensure the restrictions on the sale of alcohol in registered clubs and hotels will be removed. The existing symmetry between licensed premises and registered clubs will be retained by the amendments. In addition, the amendment to section 14 of the 1927 Act will mean hotels are permitted to sell intoxicating liquor to paying guests at any time on Good Friday and not only for consumption with a meal, as is currently the case. For the sake of completion, I should mention that the proposed amendment to section 1(1) of the 1927 Act amends the definition of "week day" in that Act to delete the current reference to "Good Friday".
Section 3 of the Bill provides for an amendment to section 7 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1960, which relates to the sale and consumption of intoxicating liquor in holiday camps licensed under the Tourist Traffic Act 1952. Again, the effect of the amendment will be to allow the sale and consumption of intoxicating liquor on Good Friday in such premises. Section 4 of the Bill provides for the amendment of sections 11(5) and 22 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1962. The amendment to section 11(5) removes the prohibition on the granting of an occasional licence on Good Friday. An occasional licence allows the holder of an ordinary seven-day on-licence, subject to obtaining an order from the District Court, to sell intoxicating liquor on the occasion of a special event at a place to which no licence is attached. The amendment to section 22 removes the reference to Good Friday in that section.
Section 5 of the Bill contains an amendment to section 14 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1988, which will have the effect of removing the restriction on the sale of alcohol on Good Friday in restaurants that operate on the basis of a special restaurant licence. I am making this amendment because I consider that it would be inequitable to permit the sale of intoxicating liquor in public houses that provide meals to their customers or otherwise happen to operate as restaurants but not in restaurants operating on the basis of a special restaurant licence.
I accept that statutory restrictions of the type that we are repealing in this Bill are no longer in tune with today’s Ireland. The Bill simply amends the rules to allow for the sale and supply of intoxicating liquor on Good Friday in a consistent, non-discriminatory and comprehensive manner. The Bill was brought forward originally by Senator Billy Lawless. I acknowledge his work and in particular his engagement with my officials. I look forward to broad support for the Bill and I commend it to the House.