Intoxicating Liquor (Amendment) Bill 2017: Second Stage

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I welcome the Minister of State to the House. I am grateful for the opportunity to debate the Bill, which has been co-sponsored by Senators McDowell, Boyhan and Craughwell and for which I hope to obtain the support of the majority of the House. The Bill has one very simple and straightforward objective, which is to remove the prohibition on licensed premises, including restaurants, off-licences and supermarkets, from trading on Good Friday. I acknowledge former Senators Imelda Henry and Maurice Cummins who, along with a current Member of the House, Senator Colm Burke, sponsored the same Bill which, unfortunately, never got past First Stage in the previous Seanad and was not debated.

It is very welcome, as reported in The Irish Times yesterday, that the Minister, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, sought Cabinet approval to ensure the support of all of the Fine Gael Senators, and that all parties have indicated their support for the Bill. I equally respect those opposed to the Bill, including my colleague, Senator Mullen, with whom I recently enjoyed a lengthy and respectful debate. I am of a generation which fully appreciates the importance of what religious observation means to many in this country and I appreciate how they feel the country in which they grew up has dramatically changed over the past 50 years. Unlike what we have seen in my adopted country of the United States, however, Ireland's modernisation has been intergenerational and has cut across class divides. The so-called "left behinds" in the United States, who do not recognise the modern United States advocated by former President Obama and yearn for a country which reflects the old ways of their past, is a constituency that is in large absent in Ireland. Nowhere was this more self-evident than in the same-sex marriage referendum, when an overwhelming 61% of the population, across all ages, genders and traditions, voted to support a change to the fabric of our nation, which would have been unconscionable when the Irish Free State was established in 1922.

That Free State, in an understandable desire to distinguish itself, in almost one of its first legislative actions enacted the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1924. Until that point, as the then Minister for Justice, Kevin O'Higgins, outlined to Dáil Éireann when he introduced the Bill, pubs were open on Good Friday from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. in cities and towns where the population was more than 5,000 and from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. elsewhere. In an expression of support for the Bill, it was observed by a Labour Party Deputy, Thomas Johnson, that Good Friday is a Christian memorial day. He supposed one might say that in Ireland, more particularly in the Twenty-Six counties, it is recognised and taken notice of to an extent more than in any other country, perhaps in Europe or the world. This is how the debate was framed then. Prohibition of opening pubs on Good Friday was intertwined with the image which our new independent State was seeking to portray.

While the prohibition on pubs opening was lifted for St. Patrick's Day some 60 years ago, for the best part of 90 years, the prohibition on pubs opening on Good Friday has stayed the law of the land, with only two attempts to seek legislative change in the area. One was made in a Private Member's Bill in 1998 by the Labour Party, and I note from the record of debates that it had the support of then Deputy Michael McDowell, now Senator and co-sponsor of this Bill. It was defeated on Second Stage. The second was in 2014, by Fine Gael Senators, in a Bill that never got past First Stage. It was former Senator Joe O’Toole, however, in seeking to amend a Government Bill in 2000 to allow pubs open on Good Friday, who perhaps framed the debate in the most straightforward manner to date. He stated:

Ireland is a grown up country. We appear able to deal with bribery, corruption and other nasty aspects of life.

Like hell we are.

He continued:

We talk about creating an inclusive society, openness and giving people responsibility for their actions. Perhaps somebody could tell me why pubs do not open on Good Friday.

He went on to capture what has now become the great irony of the Good Friday prohibition, stating that, "The prescription is more often honoured in the breach than the observance." This is plainly the case right across the country, where Holy Thursday is now one of the single biggest off-sales days for supermarkets and off-licence outlets in the entire year. Past Ministers for Justice have acknowledged time and again that people are free and entitled to take a drink in their home and that the prohibition on pubs opening on Good Friday does not interfere with a person’s right to take a drink on that day if that person so wishes. It is of course perfectly true to say this, but what the current Minister must acknowledge is that incentivising low-cost drinking away from the controlled environment of licensed premises directly contradicts the current Government's entire alcohol policy. It is stated Government policy that, to reduce binge drinking in Ireland, an objective with which I believe no one in this House would disagree, we need to remove cheap, low-cost alcohol from our supermarkets and off-licence outlets.

Currently, an 18 year old with €10 can buy ten cans of beer on Holy Thursday to keep for the next day, but cannot walk into a pub and meet friends where he or she might buy two or three drinks with the same money. Keeping pubs closed on Good Friday actively incentivises binge drinking where people - particularly students - gather all day in arranged premises, and bring cans of beer and bottles of vodka and spend the day fuelling themselves in an uncontrolled environment, simply because the 90-year old rule has remained stubbornly unremoved from our legislation.

It is no secret that I am a publican and restaurateur. That is my trade, but I am also a father and a grandfather and I have seen the real damage alcohol abuse does to families and to young people. There are clear economic benefits to licensed premises opening on Good Friday, where it has been estimated that local businesses lose between €30 million and €40 million as a result of the closure. Tourists amble around the streets looking for the world famous Irish pub atmosphere, which they have spent hundreds of euro to enjoy in some cases, to be turned away on arrival. These are strong reasons to end the 90-year rule, but they are not the only reasons.

I believe there are few in this country, which is a hugely tolerant nation, that believe their values or their beliefs are being harmed or weakened as a result of changing these laws. If anything, much like Ash Wednesday has become a secular day to encourage people to stop smoking, there is no reason Good Friday could not take on similar manifestations regarding alcohol abuse once the prohibition has been lifted.

What will happen to the Senator's €40 million loss then? He will put people off drinking.

Over the last 30 years, however, we did not hear discussions about the effect of alcohol on young people or the promotion of responsible drinking when Good Friday comes around. Instead, what we hear are the humorous stories of the ingenuity of those seeking to evade the prohibition, heading to train stations, theatres, greyhound stadiums and other sporting venues. It does not serve as a reminder to Christians of what I know is an extremely solemn day in their calendar to see images on the 6 o’clock news of people guzzling down cans of beer on trains and in sports stadiums. The prohibition simply solidifies this "them and us society" which is not reflected in Ireland. So it is time to move on, make the change to the legislation and send this Bill to the Dáil today, so that by next Good Friday, in 2018, Ireland can continue to promote a much more mature attitude to alcohol consumption.

I wish to second the Intoxicating Liquor (Amendment) Bill 2017. I welcome the Minister of State and thank him for giving the Bill a Second Stage reading. I thank Senator Billy Lawless and my fellow Independent colleagues for bringing the Bill forward in 2017.

The need to repeal the Good Friday alcohol ban is raised on a yearly basis to no avail, but I am very hopeful today. We know that Ireland's relationship with alcohol dates back to the Stone Age. Like many other countries, we have an ambivalent relationship with it. On the one hand, excessive drinking is a serious social and health problem. On the other hand, the pub, as a focus for drinking, socialising, entertaining and culture is an important part of our national identity. We therefore have a dual perception of alcohol as a problem to be managed and as a pleasure to be enjoyed. Our policy and legislative developments have reflected this ambiguity.

As legislators, we are tasked with balancing the rights of individuals to make their own lifestyle choices with the ethics of legitimate democratic intervention in public health by the State. In supporting this Bill, I believe that legislation to support our pub and tourism sector and legislation to tackle alcohol-related harm are not mutually exclusive. By supporting one, we are not automatically diminishing the other. Lifting the ban on public houses being opened and alcohol being sold on Good Friday does not interfere with the Government's policies and legislation to reduce the harm that excessive use of alcohol creates. As we speak, the Government's Public Health (Alcohol) Bill is going through the Oireachtas. Notwithstanding some contentious areas, we must be resolved on it. It is one of the most progressive pieces of legislation in Europe in the way that it tackles pricing, labelling, marketing and availability. I supported this Bill when it was in the Seanad, but I am not conflicted in supporting today's Bill either.

Neither is my support for this Bill an attack on the practices and traditions of the church. As a nation, we have a strong history of teetotalism, "the pledge" and the temperance movement. Traditions of abstinence on certain church holidays, such as Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, have been an important part of our social and religious history. These practices are now in relative decline and our laws must be updated to reflect that. I am not for one moment undermining the validity or importance of fast and abstinence for those who wish to practise it, but I am deeply conscious of the growing secularisation and multi-religious nature of Irish society, the increasing separation of church and State and our obligations as legislators to meet the needs of an evolving society.

I am not here today to promote the drinks industry. It can do a good job of that itself. I am here to promote tourism, the Irish public house and the citizen's right to choose without the interference of the State. To say that this legislation is overdue is an understatement. The Licensed Vintners Association, representing Dublin publicans, and the Vintners Federation of Ireland have been campaigning on this issue for years and I applaud them for their patience, which I hope will be rewarded.

I read recently that there are now Irish pubs in over 40 countries and that the Irish pub is a highly successfully global commodity, a gold mine for owners all over the world trading on the Irish reputation for hospitality, culture and good craic. Their success is not just due to the stout and whiskey for which Ireland is also renowned, but to their unique Irish characteristics. The authentic Irish pubs, the ones in this country, are honeypots for tourists and having them closed on Good Friday makes no moral or commercial sense. In fact, there is a curious irony in the fact that one could drink in an Irish pub anywhere in the world on Good Friday except for Ireland. Irish pubs are an intrinsic part of our national heritage. They are much more than a place to purchase alcohol.

Pubs are important third spaces, places which are not home and not work, which are inherently democratic, ubiquitous and near at hand. Pubs are our locals and we frequent them in patterns, some people are regulars and others occasional visitors, but everyone is welcome.

Pubs have been described as an icon of the everyday where people can meet, relax and enjoy as much political engagement as we do here, a place where everything and anything is discussed. Pubs are an intrinsic part of our social capital, they are often the centre of community and village life and are a vital part of our tourism offering. Having them closed on Good Friday creates confusion for tourists and does little to enhance public health.

Section 10 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1962 has already been successfully challenged in court in Limerick in 2010 albeit in very specific and quite accidental circumstances. Rock on Munster. In his judgment, Judge Tom O’Donnell declared that it would be somewhat absurd if pubs lost out on business from the Munster rugby event. I believe that it is now equally absurd that thousands of pubs are losing out on business on one of the busiest tourism weekends of the year.

I welcome this Bill as a solid and conclusive solution to what has only previously been addressed by court challenges and the creation of piecemeal ad hoc solutions. I look forward to the passing of the Bill and to the sale of alcohol in the normal way on Good Friday, 2018. The challenge for us as legislators is to balance the benefits of social drinking with the costs of excessive and addictive drinking. To say it is about time is almost an understatement as the Licensed Vintners Association representing Dublin publicans and the Vintners Federation of Ireland have been campaigning on this issue for years. The response by the Oireachtas has been ad hoc and piecemeal and the result is unsurprisingly confusing.

Having led a trade union and been president of a union, I am acutely aware that by opening pubs on Good Friday we are creating an extra day's work but it is not an extra day's work because Good Friday is not a bank holiday. I have no doubt that my colleagues in the trade union movement will address the issue of any additional pay that workers in pubs would be entitled to-----

Of course it is an extra day's work.

-----and that should not be an impediment for moving this Bill on and delivering a more secular society. I congratulate my colleague, Senator Billy Lawless, for bringing this Bill forward.

What else is it except an extra day?

My good friend and former Senator, Imelda Henry, who is here today recently said that closing pubs on Good Friday belongs to another era. While I do not wish to disrespect anybody's religious beliefs, as a person who grew up in a pub I am inclined to agree with her. She has said that it was a legacy of the past which does not recognise the massive changes in Ireland and the manner in which pubs have changed in recent times. Almost 60% of our pubs now serve food. It is no longer realistic to expect one sector of our hospitality industry to remain closed while shops and restaurants remain open for business.

We have spent a lot of time and money as a country advertising Ireland as a tourism destination and as a Government we have grown the tourism figures hugely with the 9% VAT rate, the Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East and of course the beautiful lake counties. Why then would we not allow publicans to open their pubs which are an intrinsic part of our Irish tourism experience? This has been reported by research which states that the Irish pub is a top selling point for Irish tourism, or at least one of them.

I respect those who do not agree with this proposal but there is no obligation on any publican to open if he or she does not wish to. I did a straw poll of friends who are publicans and I phoned ten people this morning. Of the ten, eight were in favour of opening on Good Friday and two were not but both of those two who said they were not in favour said that they believed it should be left up to publicans.

Apart from preventing tourists from experiencing a good old Irish pub and what it has to offer, do not forget that people who want to drink on Good Friday can do so by stocking up in advance with below-cost price slabs from the supermarket, as Senator Lawless mentioned. At least in a pub there is some regulation on the quantity of alcohol that can be consumed.

I commend the work done by former Senators Imelda Henry and Maurice Cummins and all those including Senator Lawless who have brought this Bill here today and opened a debate which I think is really important. I support the Bill in principle and the very great need to reform the Good Friday rules but this needs to be done in a manner that does not create further anomalies and unfair trading conditions for categories of licence holders. It is really important as we are pushing our country as a tourism destination and it is part of what we have to offer to tourists.

I know the Senator does not agree with me but it is true.

No, I do not like to see Ireland turned into a theme park.

It is not a theme park.

It is a theme park.

It is not a theme park, it is part of what we are. People can go into a pub but they do not have to drink. They can have water and a meal but it is part of what we offer as a destination and it should be looked at.

I do not want anyone to accuse me of not declaring an interest so I was very privileged and lucky to have been elected last year, and one of my nominating bodies was the Licensed Vintners Association of Dublin, the Dublin publicans. Some of its representatives, including the chair and chief executive are in the Public Gallery along with the chair of the Vintners Federation of Ireland. I welcome them all to the Chamber.

There are so many things to say about this issue. Fianna Fáil is supporting the Bill which will allow licensed premises to serve alcohol on Good Friday. I commend Senator Lawless and his colleagues for putting forward this Intoxicating Liquor (Amendment) Bill 2017. It is very important that we acknowledge, as previous speakers have, that publicans all over the country have been calling for the licensing laws to be amended to permit all premises that are licensed to sell alcohol on Good Friday. I know it is not Senator Lawless's intention to prioritise pubs over restaurants, off-licence outlets or supermarkets.

Senator Craughwell alluded to the fact that Good Friday is not a bank holiday. It is a bank holiday but it is not a public holiday. The banks do close on Good Friday but only the banks. If one looks at our experience with Sunday trading over the years, it was quite restricted and now it is completely normal and no one thinks twice about it. I am sure that if any major retailer was asked if Sunday was one of its busiest days, it would say that it is far busier than a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.

What about the employees?

Senator Norris will get his chance.

We can discuss other matters but I have not interrupted anyone else and I hope that I will not be interrupted.

The current laws have been described as archaic and discriminatory. A study done by Anthony Foley of DCU estimates that the Good Friday ban costs publicans about €30 million and the State €6 million in excise duties when most other retail businesses are open and trading on Good Friday. It is a normal day of work for many people, it is not a public holiday.

The Intoxicating Liquor Act 1962 allows area exemptions in all parts of the country with the exception of Dublin which is how the Munster match allowed alcohol to be sold in 2010. The Intoxicating Liquor Act was introduced in 1927 originally and prohibited the sale of alcoholic drinks on Christmas day, Good Friday and St. Patrick's Day but in 1960, 57 years ago, that was repealed in order to facilitate visitors coming to Ireland from overseas. We all acknowledge that Easter is the first major tourism weekend of the year and that while the numbers are very good, tourism is a fragile industry. Brexit will have potential implications for our trading in terms of tourism with our nearest neighbours and we have to make sure that we do not put up barriers to tourism.

Many publicans have said to me that they are embarrassed by the fact that they must tell their customers, in particular tourists, that they cannot serve them alcohol. Many Dublin publicans, in particular, open on Good Friday to serve food, water, tea, coffee and soft drinks. Customers wonder why they cannot have a glass of wine or beer with their meal. Publicans have said they are embarrassed by having to tell people about an archaic law that does not exist in any other part of the world. People must acknowledge that closure is an option and publicans are not bound to open. Senator Leyden, my good colleague, has just joined me here in the Chamber. He could open his pub at 10.30 in the morning but he does not. He can choose to open his pub at 7 o'clock in the evening or whenever it suits his customers. The provision is not compulsory. As Senator McFadden has said, we must give publicans a choice. Equally, it is important that we acknowledge that both organisations that represent publicans, the Vintners Federation of Ireland and the Licensed Vintners Association, fully support the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill in terms of minimum pricing, advertising and other parts of that Bill.

We must ensure that we do not have a situation where we must tell tourists that they cannot be here. We must acknowledge that 30% of trade in pubs takes place on a Friday. We have moved on as a country and Good Friday is considered a day of shopping but many people reflect on Good Friday. Nobody is required to go to a pub, restaurant or supermarket to buy alcohol if they do not want to but at this stage we need a choice. We need to allow tourists who travel to Ireland on the most important tourism weekend or the first major tourism weekend of the year to have a choice. The 1916 celebrations showed us how important tourism is to us. Easter has a greater resonance since the 1916 centenary celebrations in 2016 and in future we should allow alcohol to be served on Good Friday. It is fitting that this year marks the 200th anniversary of the foundation of the Licensed Vintners Association. I hope that by 2018, pubs and other licensed premises will be able to trade on Good Friday. When the Minister of State responds I want him to tell us how quickly we can get the legislation to pass through both Houses. We must pass this legislation in time so that we can convey the message to the world that if people want to visit Ireland on Good Friday they will no longer be restricted from purchasing alcohol.

Like other colleagues, I acknowledge the important work done by former Senator, Imelda Henry, when she was a Member of this House and welcome her to the Chamber today. I congratulate Senator Lawless for putting forward this legislation. I hope his Bill will be supported by the vast majority of Members in the Chamber.

I thank Senator Lawless for bringing this legislation forward because this is an important discussion. As outlined by previous contributors, we need to have this discussion as a society. I thought we were bad in the North with restricted opening hours but I quickly discovered when I came to this House that the Good Friday prohibition, as Senator Lawless calls it, is in place.

I shall stress a couple of points to the Minister of State at this early stage of my contribution. We, in Sinn Féin, first and foremost as republicans who believe in a broad civic society where all traditions and views of the world are equal, believe that pubs should be allowed to open on Good Friday. There should be no barrier to them doing so because in the past a religious denomination thought pubs should close on a Good Friday. I include a caveat to my statement on the need to show respect to those who want to observe their religious practices on Good Friday. They have an absolute right to do so and they should be afforded every opportunity to do so.

I do not believe, and Sinn Féin does not believe, that a bar being allowed to open on Good Friday hinders or prohibits people from observing their religious practices in any shape or form. I have been consistent because I was very much to the fore, in my previous role as a Belfast city councillor and a person who had the privilege to serve as Belfast's Lord Mayor, in saying that the licensing laws in the North need to be changed and modernised to bring them into the 21st century. I say so as someone who comes from a place where pubs are allowed to open for a limited period on Good Friday and over the course of the Easter weekend. This Bill is important not just in terms of what it says about the block on Good Friday but also what kind of society we seek to be. The more pluralist our society is, the greater benefits will be bestowed on us all.

I share some of the concerns expressed by Senator Norris and I hope I am not prejudging what he will say next. He expressed a concern that people have a twee notion of the Irish pub. I am someone who enjoys the Irish pub and make no apologies for doing so. When we encourage tourists to experience an Irish pub we should encourage them to do so in order to experience the music, craic, Irish hospitality and céad míle fáilte and not throw loads of money at Diageo. When we encourage people to experience Irish pub culture then we should highlight all that it has to offer.

Sinn Féin is concerned about the public health aspect. As a Seanad, and Senator Black's Bill has been referred to, we need to be careful in how we approach this issue. Sinn Féin's main concern is as follows. Senator Lawless's engagement with us thus far has been very positive and proactive. Sinn Féin wants to work collaboratively with colleagues here to improve the legislation. We have serious concerns about the working conditions for people who work in pubs and the sector. This Bill, perhaps without intending to, has shone a light on the working conditions once again.

My colleague, Senator Gavan, will outline some of Sinn Féin's concerns but they have already been articulated by Mandate and other trade unions. We need to consider these issues in their own right and on their own merit. We must acknowledge the fact, as we have said previously, that a publican can bring staff in on Good Friday. He or she can tell staff to conduct a stock take, carry out a deep clean or paint the ceiling in the toilets. If we are serious about this legislation then we need to implement the existing legislation that protects workers and puts workers in the sector and pub trade first, and affords them opportunities.

It is not good enough to simply say that people who work in a pub are guaranteed only two days off in a year. I have heard this issue articulated when discussing this Bill only to discover that it is not the case. Most bars will bring people in to work on Good Friday. Some premises, dare I say it, may open and serve drink through the back door on Good Friday. All of these matters must be discussed in the round. That is why I think the decision not take all Stages today was a positive one. It is never good practice to drive legislation as significant and important as this through the House. We need to have the opportunity, particularly on Committee Stage, for Members in the first instance to tease out some of the concerns and work with the proposers of the Bill to try and improve it where we see fit.

We also need to hear from stakeholders, the publicans, their representatives, the trade unions and the representatives of the workers who will be impacted as a result of any change. For us, this legislation is at an early stage. We will not oppose the Bill at this stage but we seek to improve the Bill where there is an understanding, acceptance and acknowledgement therein that the conditions currently faced by staff and people who work in the trade and sector are simply untenable. I wish to refer to the figure that Senator Gavan stated this morning. What percentage of people earn under €400 per week?

As many as 75% of employees earn under €400 per week.

That is the reality. Let us bolster our tourism offering and the night time economy but let us, for God's sake, consider the existing legislation.

If we are expecting staff to work on those days, we in these Houses, as a society, State and Government, should do everything we can to ensure that they are protected, valued and afforded a salary and protections which reflect the demand we are placing on them.

The next speaker is Senator O'Reilly, who has five minutes.

At the outset, I join with others in welcoming the former Senator, Ms Imelda Henry-----

I apologise. Senator O'Reilly has eight minutes. Everyone in the debate will have eight minutes.

I welcome Ms Imelda Henry to the Gallery today. She is a great advocate for publicans and vintners. As she is a fearless and good advocate for them and well fit to articulate their position, she is not afraid to deal with a diversity of views. I know that she will take all views on board.

I rise to oppose the legislation on a number of grounds. The first is that the tradition of closing on a Good Friday is a deep rooted tradition in Ireland. It is part of the Irish identity and arises from our Christian identity. I make no apology for the fact that the great majority of people have a Christian ethos and ethic. In actual fact, this is non-sectarian to the extent that all the Christian churches are ad idem on it. This is part of a specific Irish identity and tradition and a deep rooted part of our culture and heritage. It therefore merits respect on those grounds. As a colleague said to me earlier, we cannot allow the country to become totally bland and adopt every new fad at a whim in a thoughtless fashion. I, therefore, think this merits a lot of consideration.

At a subliminal level having the pubs closed on a Good Friday sent a message about restraint and the moderate use of alcohol. People talk about having a day of alcohol education on the day. The best way to do it is to have the pubs closed and to marry the two. It sent an important message and was an important part of our identity.

Ms Henry and the other publican representatives here know and would be the first to say that quite a number of their members are not in favour of opening the pubs on a Good Friday. It was interesting that two of eight had indicated they were against it in the random survey done by my colleague Senator McFadden. I suspect that the number would increase if she did a wider and less urban trawl. I find that many publicans are delighted to have the only two days off that they have all year, including that particular day.

The point that the staff will somehow get magic money for the day is a nonsense. Quite truthfully, it will involve staff coming in on an extra day, which was a day they had off, and they will work at the same rate because margins are so tight. If they are earning €400 per week on average, it is pie in the sky and nonsense to think-----

They could get double-----

It is nonsense to think that they will come in on a special rate that day. That will not materialise. Many workers will be exploited in the process.

The Senator will have to work it himself.

We should not always be affected by commercial considerations and I want to suggest a variation on that in a minute. We should not always measure what we do in society and how we conduct our business on purely commercial considerations. There are things that are valuable in our culture and part of our heritage, identity, tradition and what we are that we should preserve. I suggest humbly - this merits reflection - that perhaps in a funny way keeping some distinctively Irish things and native parts of our tradition might be commercially valuable. My humble suggestion to a lot of those here is that a number of tourists come to Ireland because we have a specific ethos, culture and tradition and are an island society with certain values. They come and are attracted by our values, lifestyle and way of life. If we create a society that is homogenous, bland, has no distinctively Irish things and is too reflective of western cultures, I know many tourists who would be turned off. Our very identity is a bonus to our tourism. There is a misnomer in there if one is talking about boosting tourism. We should be concerned that there is a misplaced concern around commercialism because I suggest the contrary is the case.

We have deep seated traditions and values. Christmas Day and Good Friday are the two days the pubs are closed. Good Friday is a very special day. Why should we apologise for that? I do not think there is anything unrepublican or non-inclusive about the fact that we reflect the values of the vast majority of us. As the census suggested recently, the vast majority of our people identify with one Christian church or the other. Good Friday is a very special day in the Christian calendar and in our culture and identity. Why not honour the day, be distinctive and do our own thing? Rather than putting tourists off, it will attract tourists. Tourists want to come to a different place. Those of us selecting holidays this year will look to places with a distinct identity and a different tradition and culture. We will go on an exploratory and interesting holiday. We will not go somewhere bland. My good colleague, Senator David Norris, interjected earlier to say that it is some sort of a theme park. We go for reality, not artificiality.

My humble suggestion is that we reflect a little on this one and that we think of the workers who will not benefit and whose conditions will suffer from it. We should think of the many publicans who do not want this change. Many publicans I know find it hard to maintain business for those times they are already open. We should think about our Christian tradition and identity and about what we are. Let us hold onto some things. Let us not throw everything out. Let us have a bit of pride in ourselves, our identity and what we are. Do we have to bow and doff the cap to every new fad and whim? Can we not be distinctive? Let us honour our great Christian tradition that goes back many years. Let us honour and celebrate it and not be ashamed of it.

I will conclude on this point. Many of us are happy to go on holidays and members of our families are happy to work in other countries with other cultures where there is a definite emphasis on their traditions. We do not interfere with those traditions. Why, for one day of the day, can we not stand up for ourselves?

A persuasive speech.

A number of Senators have indicated. If everyone wishes to speak, a speaker and a half will miss out as we are short about 12 minutes at the end. Will Members try to be less repetitive, if possible, and try to make new speeches? I will not stop anyone from contributing. However, if every Member takes eight minutes, a speaker and a half will not get time at the end. The next speaker is Senator Black, who has eight minutes.

It might be a surprise to some that I support this legislation. I have spoken openly on the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill and will probably speak on it again today. It is something that I am extremely passionate about. Unfortunately, people might think I am in the temperance movement given I am so passionate about that Bill. However, I support this legislation because, in recent years, Good Friday has been marred by excessive drinking in homes throughout the country. The panic buying of alcohol in the days beforehand is a sad reflection on our culture. Excessive drinking in homes where young people are present sends out the wrong message. I, therefore, welcome any measure that will help reduce the harm that alcohol will do to the health of our people and am delighted that Senator Lawless supports the idea of the pub being a regulated environment.

I would like to see the introduction of responsible serving of alcohol training built in as a requirement under licensing law in Ireland.

Given the level of pre-drinking at home before people go out, many licensed premises serve alcohol to people who are already intoxicated.

I wish to make a number of points on pubs opening on Good Friday. This was one of the few days in the year that bar workers could spend with their families, and it should be an optional work day where if they decide to work they get compensated. It would be like working for a bank on a bank holiday.

The expressions of support I have received with regard to the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill from people throughout the country is very heartening. Recently, I was in Cork where I was asked to speak at several community events on the impact of alcohol on society. There is genuine disbelief that there are public representatives out there who are not in favour of the Bill in its entirety. The Bill will save lives. The notion that the retail and alcohol industries are succeeding in influencing some Deputies and Senators to prioritise profits before the health of the nation is incomprehensible to most people to whom I speak. It is imperative the alcohol industry does not have any input into legislation that would benefit the health of the Irish people and that any lobbying by these vested interests is opposed. To put it into stark terms, the saving of even one life is much more important than the profits of multinational corporations. Every day, three people die from an alcohol-related illness and this needs to be tackled.

The crisis of people being forced to stay on trolleys in hospitals must be considered against the fact that 1,500 hospital beds are taken up each day by people with an alcohol-related issue. No family with a relative on a hospital trolley would support the idea that company profits are more important than a loved one's health care.

I am not opposed to alcohol when it is used in moderation. Education on the effect of alcohol needs to be available to all. The fact that one in eight cases of breast cancer is caused by alcohol needs to be highlighted. The cultural change around alcohol needed in this country is being led by the great work of the Minister of State, Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, in introducing the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill. We know alcohol is a psychoactive drug and should be treated as such.

I have mentioned previously that I work with families who deal with this issue every day. Their hearts are broken watching their adult children going down this self-destructive route. This is why I am so passionate. I am supportive of the legislation because I believe in the pub. It can be a really good environment where people can socialise, once alcohol is monitored or supervised in some way. The fact alcohol is legal does not reduce the harm it does, and we have an obligation to ensure Ireland is not defined by our consumption of this drug. I hope we will arrive at a time when the idea of pubs being opened or closed on Good Friday will be irrelevant.

I support the legislation and I wish Senator Billy Lawless well. He also supports the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill and I appreciate this. I hope my timing was all right.

It was excellent, and if everyone else could be as efficient as Senator Black with regard to speaking time we would get everybody in.

The Labour Party and I support the Bill, but before our friends in the Gallery from the vintners association get too excited I wish to state on the record I am not a fan of that association or what it does. Its influence over Irish politics is far too powerful, and its opposition to the injecting centre proposal is at best misguided and at worst miserable.

We have an obsession with alcohol in this country which is dysfunctional. It is the cause of a high percentage of domestic abuse, sexual assault and rape cases. Two people a week in Ireland die from fatal overdoses of alcohol. These are not people who get so drunk they fall in front of a car, these are people who drink so much that they die. It costs the HSE approximately €3 billion every year and if one goes to an average accident and emergency department any night of the week one realises why this is so.

I wince when I hear politicians speak about the pub being the centre or focal point of a community. If this is the case we have gone seriously wrong. I remind people that the GAA, when it was established in 1884, was as much an institution to tackle the abuse of alcohol among young people as it was to re-engage people with the national sports.

I will put my cards on the table. I have a vested interest as I drink and I partake in a pint or two. However, I am also a republican and on this basis I inform the House that as someone who has been a public servant and paid from the public purse since March 2000, as a teacher, a principal of a school, a Deputy, a Minister of State and a Senator, in all that time I have started my working day with a Christian prayer. In every place I have worked, in my school, in the Dáil and now in the Seanad, as a public servant every single day my working day has begun with a Christian prayer. I am paid from the public purse now, as I was when I was a teacher. I absolutely believe in the separation of church and state. This is why I and my party support the contention that if people do not want to drink on Good Friday it is absolutely their religious right not to partake in alcohol on Good Friday.

Thank you very much. How frightfully liberal of you.

People in my family feel very strongly about what they consume with regard to food on Good Friday and Ash Wednesday. It is something they do because of their strong religious beliefs. I will not belittle anybody. In fact, I was very impressed by Senator Joe O'Reilly's speech. Despite the fact he was interrupted by number of people in the Chamber, I am quite impressed that somebody would stand against the grain and make the case for the retention of the law as it is, although I do not agree with his reasons.

As somebody who fundamentally believes in the separation of church and state, this is not the big issue. Our churches still have a huge influence over our hospitals, health system and education system, and there are bigger issues that need to be contended with.

I must accept the issues raised by my colleagues in Sinn Féin on workers' rights, and agree with the representatives from the trade unions who have also made these cases. It is a low-paid industry where people generally start on very low pay, and it is a vulnerable type of work. By its very nature, the individuals employed in the industry deal with people who have had too much to drink. It is something of which we must be mindful. In this regard I am thankful we did not ram through the legislation in one day and we are taking the time to consider it more fully.

I will summarise my few points. Our national obsession with alcohol is dysfunctional and literally killing us. It is supported by a very powerful lobby group, whose influence on Irish legislation is something that must be tackled. I make reference again to its objections to the injecting centres. It is remarkable how it feels the drug it pedals is somehow more socially acceptable than what we are trying to control in injecting centres. Fundamentally, as somebody who believes in the separation of church and state, on this basis if someone wants to go down to a pub on Good Friday and have a pint in good conscience who are we to stop him or her from doing this?

I believe the original legislation was enacted in 1927 and it also included St. Patrick's Day. Since that was overturned 50 years ago, nobody has suggested we should return to having pubs closed on St. Patrick's Day. Let us be honest, what goes on on Good Friday shows exactly what type of a dysfunctional relationship we have with alcohol. There are lines of people outside off-licences on Holy Thursday, people trying to get into train stations to go on imaginary train journeys and people going on barges on the canal. I heard a story last Good Friday of a friend of mine on a barge on the canal, who shared the barge with several friends and an English hen party who were so confused as they could not find a drink in Dublin.

We need more hen parties in Dublin.

I do not in any way diminish the issues we have with alcohol in this country, which are killing us. On the republican basis of separation of church and state, this is something we must support.

I congratulate Senator Lawless and other Senators for tabling this legislation. I welcome to the Gallery the former Senator, Imelda Henry, who did a lot of work in this area in the last Seanad. I was conflicted on this legislation. Part of me wishes we would leave licensed premises closed and take a national day to reflect on our toxic culture of alcohol but on reflection, I do not think if the pubs are open another day of the year it will make a blind bit of difference because there are much more deeply rooted issues we need to sort out. Senator Ó Ríordáin spoke very eloquently about the effects of alcohol on our nation and I agree with every word. I have spoken in here numerous times on it. Ireland has developed considerably since the Intoxicating Liquor Act was passed into law in 1927, particularly with regard to economic and social aspects. Senator Lawless outlined this very well in his contribution. The tourism sector has grown significantly, making a greater contribution to the economy while the Irish population has become more diverse and less inclined to practice religion. For these reasons, the re-examination of the current Good Friday rules are merited. The Intoxicating Liquor (Amendment) Bill 2017, which proposes to permit the sale and supply of intoxicating liquor on Good Friday addresses these changes. Furthermore, this legislation will facilitate the continued growth of Ireland in terms of tourism, the economy and social diversity.

I support the Bill but there are a number of technical issues that I will address. The Intoxicating Liquor (Amendment) Bill 2017 proposes to amend section 2 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1927. This amendment will remove the restriction on the sale of intoxicating liquors on Good Friday. That is the objective of the Bill. Furthermore, amending section 2 of the Act would permit the sale of intoxicating liquor in off-licences and public houses. I concur with Senator Lawless's comments on this. The Licensing Act and Registration of Clubs (Ireland) Act make the regulatory environment considerably complex. This must be considered when debating the proposed Intoxicating Liquor (Amendment) Bill before us.

Notwithstanding my support for the Bill, as a result of these complexities there are a number of issues in the current proposed legislation that must be addressed. First, with regard to removing restrictions on sale during Good Friday, the licensing code is considerably complex. Passing this Bill without addressing the licensing code would create further inconsistencies and unfair trading conditions for certain premises. We should take these considerations into account with this legislation going forward. Second, the Bill proposes to permit the sale of intoxicating liquor in off-licences and public houses. However, it would remove the restriction in respect of restaurants operating under the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1988. Excluding restaurants from the provision of the Bill would, in part, defeat the purpose of the Bill, especially when it comes to tourism, which is to re-examine and update our current legislation to better match modern day Ireland in particular with regard to tourism and the economy. Moreover it will create unfair trading conditions. Additionally, it would potentially discriminate against the sale of intoxicating liquor in public houses which happen to operate as restaurants under a special restaurant licence. Furthermore, the details of the Bill with regard to hotels have yet to be clarified. This is an important aspect of the Bill. Hotels are obviously an integral part of our tourism sector and we need to produce legislation that will allow them to operate fairly and equally with other premises. Third, section 56 of the Intoxicating - I sound like I am intoxicated myself when I try to say that word - Liquor Act 1927 deals with prohibited hours in registered clubs which hold a certificate of registration from the District Court under the Registration of Clubs (Ireland) Act. In order to obtain registration, a club must incorporate requirements into its rules including a rule which provides that intoxicating liquor shall not be supplied to members or guests on Good Friday. In order to retain the current regulatory balance between registered clubs and licensed premises on Good Friday, an appropriate amendment to the Registration of Clubs (Ireland) Act will also be required. The Government has proposed, in its legislative programme, to bring forward a sale of alcohol Bill which would repeal all the statutory provisions currently set out in the Licensing Act and Registration of Clubs (Ireland) Act and replace them with updated provisions. Like the Intoxicating Liquor (Amendment) Bill before us, these updates will better match Ireland's contemporary social and economic environment.

I support the Bill, notwithstanding the issues I have outlined above. I despair at our relationship with alcohol but, having reflected on this issue, on balance I support premises being open on Good Friday. I commend Senator Lawless and other Senators for their work on this.

I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, Deputy David Stanton, and his colleague, a senior official from the Department. I thank them both for coming in. I commend Senator Lawless for bringing forward this Bill. It is very clear cut and supported by Senators Boyhan, McDowell and Craughwell. It is a great achievement after just one year in the House to bring forward a Private Members' Bill and to have it debated in the House. The Senator has brought great knowledge from his experience in business and in the licensed trade.

I welcome former Senator Imelda Henry to the House. On 3 July 2014, she brought forward a similar Bill in the House called the Intoxicating Liquor (Amendment) Bill 2014, which was not progressed at that stage and did not get the kind of coverage this Bill is getting. Things have moved on.

I have to declare an interest because I am part-owner of Castlecoote Lodge, bar and replica Dáil and Seanad lounge, in Castlecoote, Roscommon. In 2014, I expressed reservations about opening on Good Friday. I said at the time that there are two special days in the Christian calendar. They are the birth of our Lord and his death on Good Friday. Since that, like Paul on the road to Damascus, I have had a revelation.

The Senator opened a pub.

No, I had the pub opened before that. Let us clarify that.

It was only half open.

It was opened in 2012 and 2013, to be quite correct.

Senator Leyden, without interruption.

At that stage, I felt that one day off was quite relaxing but things move on. I welcome Mr. Padraig Cribben from the VFI and the other organisations that represent publicans. It is not realistic in this day and age and we have to look at the whole business of tourism in towns and cities. People are coming here from abroad and are not aware that on this day one cannot purchase a drink in a public house throughout the length and breadth of Ireland. It is strictly adhered to. Last Saturday Ian O'Doherty wrote a very good article about this issue. He quoted a priest in Limerick who commented on Michael Noonan being in favour of lifting the ban. The article stated, "Fr Joe Young, chaplain with the city's Brothers of Charity, admits that the restriction is: 'Completely and utterly pointless... People should be allowed to make up their own minds about whether they drink alcohol on the day.'" He made the point that alcohol is sold in Vatican City. From an economic point of view about €30 million is lost in sales and about €6 million lost for Revenue.

The biggest trouble publicans have is not about opening or closing on Good Friday, it is below cost selling in supermarkets. That is a fact. That is what is causing the greatest difficulties to the licensed trade. Our parish of Castlecoote, Fuerty, was awarded the county Fleadh Cheoil 2017 under the auspices of Athleague Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann. It is taking place from Easter Sunday, 16 April, starting at 3 o'clock, to Easter Monday, 17 April. It is a very important event for our parish. It has never happened in a rural area before. As it happens, there are three pubs in the village. There is Dalton's, PJ Naughton's and the Castlecoote Lodge, bar and lounge. Those three pubs cannot open on Good Friday. People will arrive in the village, because we are providing parking on our farm, which adjoins the pub, but we cannot provide toilet facilities for them because we cannot open the pub. That is a practical issue. One might say it is not a great reason to open the pub on Good Friday but it is not a bad reason. It highlights to me how ridiculous this situation is. It is 90 years since it was decided.

I will take a stand and will oppose totally the opening of pubs on Christmas Day. I think everyone in the House would say that under no circumstances-----

Please do not confuse the issue Senator.

Furthermore, I ask the Minister of State to confirm-----

The Senator should come up North on Christmas Day. We are open.

Senator Frank Feighan was involved in the licensed trade at one stage. He had a beautiful bar in Boyle with a very successful trade at the time.

Has the Tánaiste announced publicly that she will include the removal of the ban in an intoxicating liquor Bill to be introduced shortly? Will this be the last year people will not have the democratic right to go into a public house to have a drink with their friends on Good Friday? By the way, no one is forced to open a pub. A publican can open any day that he or she likes. If he or she feels strongly about the issue, he or she does not have to open on Good Friday. It is the publican's choice. Nor is a person forced to go in if a pub is open. A person might decide not to do so. Senator David Norris will be more familiar with it, but Lent finishes on the eve-----

We are very grateful not to be forced into pubs. As a member of the Church of Ireland, it is so generous, big-hearted and gracious of the Roman Catholic majority not to get Protestants together and force them into pubs. We are so grateful.

The Senator is delaying his chance to speak.

I am delighted that Senator David Norris has set the record straight and acknowledged the fact that we are so tolerant.

Senator Terry Leyden: I am glad Senator set the record and acknowledged the fact that we were so tolerant about the situation.

Absolutely wonderful.

Senator Terry Leyden to continue, without interruption.

I think Lent finishes on the night of Good Friday and that Saturday marks the start-----

Senator David Norris would not understand it.

He is very committed to the Anglican Church which I think is committed to these issues also.

On a serious note, this is an important Bill which I hope will be adopted. Respectfully, there are so many Private Members' Bills going through the House. There are approximately 25 or 26 and it is not just happening in this House but also in the other House. Whether the Government lasts a long or a short time, most of these Bills will not see the light of day and that is being positive about it. I have a Registration of Wills Bill and know what it is like. I would be delighted, therefore, if the Minister brought forward this Bill now that I have decided to be on the side of those proposing it. I found Senator Billy Lawless to be very persuasive. He has given great leadership in this matter. I would not have proposed the Bill because I would have been seen to have had a vested interest. Senator Billy Lawless has no vested interest in Ireland at this stage. He is doing it from the point of view of Ireland, Inc. and I say, "Well done," to him. I congratulate him and he has my full support. The House should be unanimous in putting the Bill through.

I welcome the Bill and acknowledge the good work of Senator Billy Lawless in bringing it forward. We have heard about our great Christian tradition. I respectfully suggest that before it we had a great pagan tradition-----

-----which was probably a lot more fun.

Not if you were being sacrificed for fertility.

We would never sacrifice the Senator.

I am not fertile. Am I?

On a serious note, we should welcome the Bill because it is a small step towards the separation of Church and State, but it is not from where we should start. We should start by acknowledging that 90% of schools are still under the control of the Catholic Church, which they should not be. We should also start by acknowledging that large sections of the public health service are under the direct control of the Catholic Church, which they should not be.

Let us contrast the haste with which people want to progress this Bill with the progress of the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, on which Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil seem to have disappeared without trace. It is gone into the hidey holes of government and we do not know when it will be brought back. I do not understand our priorities. The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill should command the support of everyone in the Chamber. That it has been disappeared by the Government parties owing to lobbying on the part of some of the folks in the Visitors Gallery is not acceptable. It is easy to support this Bill, but where is the courage of the Senators when it comes to supporting their own party's Bill and the Minister on the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill? That Bill needs to be introduced as soon as possible.

The issue of haste also concerns me because, as the Minister of State will be aware, the major vintners' associations refused to engage with the joint labour committees that were, thanks to the good work of Senator Gerald Nash, set up by the previous Government. I acknowledge that there are a number of very good employers in the industry, but, as stated by my colleague, 75% of employees in the food and accommodation sector earn less than €400 gross a week and there are huge abuses in terms of split shifts, unfair rosters and not paying proper premiums for working on a Sunday or overtime rates. The Minister of State has an opportunity today. The Government set up the joint labour committee process in which the people concerned refused to engage. Will the Minister of State call on them to engage with the industrial relations machinery of the State? If he does not do this, he is sending a clear message and giving these guys the green light to work away. The National Employment Rights Authority, NERA, reports that 60% of employers in the sector were in breach of basic employment legislation. Six out of ten employers inspected were in breach of the legislation. I have heard all of the concerns about publicans. However, apart from Senator James Reilly, who gave a genuine response, so far I have heard no expressions of concern about the concerns of workers.

There was a proposal to take all Stages of the Bill today. I say absolutely no way and I am glad that it is no longer the case. If we are serious about ensuring fairness in the sector, why not take the time, while the Bill is being examined, including on Committee Stage, to engage with the trade unions, in particular, and call on the vintners and the other folks involved in the accommodation and food sector to do what they should do, that is, acknowledge that there are poor standards in terms of pay and conditions? The House does not have to take my word for it. We know it from NERA and the CSO's figures released yesterday. Some 75% are earning less than €400 a week. Let us ensure these folks engage and set up a joint labour committee to put proper standards in place. I hope the Minister of State will be clear in his response in supporting that proposal. If not, he will be betraying tens of thousands of workers throughout the country and the work done by the previous Government. I would like to see that issue addressed, if possible. As the Bill is going through, we have a moment to use that leverage to good effect for the tens of thousands of front-line workers affected and I see no reason not to do so. I would like to hear some support from others in the Chamber. It cannot always be left to Sinn Féin to stand up for workers. We seem to have run out of Fianna Fáil speakers, but what are we going to do?

They are in the pub.

On balance, we welcome the work of Senator Billy Lawless and the fact that the Bill has been brought forward. We will not oppose it at this time, but we do not want to see it being rushed through until such time as the genuine concerns of workers have been taken into account. That is the responsibility of the Minister of State.

I would also like to be associated with the welcome extended to our former colleague Imelda Henry and compliment her on her work. It is always helpful and informative. I also welcome those who represent the vintners' associations. Any group, across the board, that represents legitimate concerns and business is always welcome to relay its concerns and interests. Those present are employers, pay tax and engage in legal and legitimate enterprise and are entitled to have their voices heard. As policy makers and legislators, we must consider everything in the round, including public health policy.

I do not know if Senator Paul Gavan is aware of it, but the vintners support the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill. The Senator suggested they were not supporting it. I am clear that they are.

It is a pity Fine Gael is not supporting the Bill.

I am correcting the record as the Senator stated something that was inaccurate.

It is said Irish people have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol, but it seems that the Government has a confused alcohol policy. I understand its position to be that it does not have any issue with the consumption of alcohol in principle, yet all we ever hear on public health policy is that we should drink less and be geared towards healthy drinking. If an alien was to land from Mars, it would be confused if it were to consider what we are told under the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill and the fact that there is a day on which we say, symbolically or otherwise, that drink is not to be served and which now we are mad keen to get rid of.

Senator Leyden should mark my words - in due course he might have another Pauline conversion on the road again and think that we should open on Christmas Day.

No, I stand firmly against that.

Senator Mulherin, without interruption.

Even if Senator Mulherin brings in that Bill, I will not support it.

The point is that we should drink less, and we have a day when we do not drink, so what we are saying is that we have to have this day where we can drink more. If we are really trying to promote people drinking less alcohol, we could immediately tackle below cost selling. That has not been done. There are all sorts of formulae about minimum unit pricing and that, but it is within the remit of the Government to do that initially. On the other hand, another arm of Government is funding the growth of the drinks industry, whether it is whiskey or craft beers or something else. An honest analysis is that we have a very confused position on alcohol, which represents many of the views of the public.

There has been much talk about tourism and people being able to get a drink. Listening to it, one would think that tourism would go into meltdown and would decline because tourists cannot buy a drink in a pub on Good Friday. I do not agree with that. It is overstating it.

I know that the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill idea is that if one cannot see it, people might not be inclined to buy it, and that children will not see it. Children can accompany adults who are drinking alcohol into pubs and there is no restriction on that adult having the child in the pub all day. There are so many contradictions.

There has been much talk in the House of republicanism and republican-type values and the citizen. Rather than being a good republican or a person who values the rights of citizens to choose, this is actually worshipping at the altar of globalisation. People have suggested that this is a tie to our religious history or tradition and that this is a bad thing. I agree with Senator O'Reilly. Are we really so hell bent on being homogenised and pasteurised and being the same as the rest of the world? It is a tradition and part of our identity.

It is not part of our identity.

We all know that our identity has contradictions. When there is talk about religion here, it is usually the Catholic Church that is spoken about. There are many people who at different times in their lives - some on a daily basis - derive much comfort and empowerment from their faith and their religious beliefs, and we also represent those people. The idea that we are doing this because the Catholic Church or whatever church-----

Passover was last weekend and we did not close the bars.

I have the floor here. It is part of our tradition and part of our history. Senator O'Reilly put it very eloquently. I do not see that there is a rush to do it. I see it as something which makes us unique. Perhaps we can reconcile ourselves with alcohol in other ways. I agree with comments that have been made concerning people queuing to get alcohol the day before. Perhaps self-reflection is required. One speaker said that education is required, so that one is educated enough to know that alcohol is harmful. That applies particularly to all adults, unless this is a nanny state.

This issue relates to our Judeo-Christian heritage, which brings about Easter and Christmas, etc. One can go way back and speak about paganism, as Senator Gavan mentioned. From my point of view, when we get some commentary on religion we do not actually hear an objective type of debate but rather people's personal hang-ups about religion, which, seen in that context, explains many of the attitudes that are displayed. I support Senator O'Reilly and oppose this particular legislation. I am confused by Government policy on the matter.

I have four remaining speakers - Senators Mullen, Norris, Maria Byrne and Feighan. The Minister has to come in at 17.27, which means I have 22 minutes for 32 minutes worth of speakers. If the next four speakers can be relatively brief everybody can get in; otherwise, two people will get eight minutes, one will get six and one will not get in at all.

Let us prioritise Senator Norris.

The father of the House.

As quick as you can, Senator Mullen. You have eight minutes.

The Acting Chairman could give us five minutes each.

The Order of the House is eight minutes.

All right. If the Acting Chairman stops me at five minutes, I will stop.

I will stop you at five minutes.

No posturing and we will be all right.

The effect of this Bill would be to allow the sale of alcohol in pubs on Good Friday. Let us be clear about this - this is not the most important issue that will ever come before this House. The fabric of our society will not be rent asunder if this Bill passes, but nor will the common good be in any way served if it does pass. There are essentially two arguments for the Bill. One is to allow bigger pubs to sell more drink and make more money, because Fridays are days when pubs do more trade. Good Friday is about good trade for the bigger pubs in particular. Traditionally, the smaller pubs do not mind closing on Good Friday as it is regarded as a day to wash down the house and organise things, and certainly from a worker's point of view the day off was welcome.

Not if they are washing down the house.

The second big argument is that this ban on Good Friday is somehow a vestige of Catholic Ireland at a time when far fewer Irish people are committed to their religion. This argument appeals to a certain kind of secularist who wants to remove any remnant of a public nod towards religion, despite the fact that our Grundnorm document, our Constitution, still acknowledges that homage is due to almighty God. Presumably we will have a referendum on that in due course-----

Absolutely, bring it on.

-----despite the fact that faith inspired many people, and that there are thousands and thousands of tolerant people who do not necessarily have faith themselves but who like the traditional elements which inform celebrations like Easter and Christmas. Perhaps they will be replaced in due course by Senator Ó Ríordáin and others when they get into power with names like Winterval for Christmas and so on, so that we do not have to offend any non-believers by having these archaic customs.

Winterval? I like that.

Nollaig is a nice name for it.

What about Santa's Day?

The canny drinks people, who want to sell on draft beer and not just in cans, see an opportunity here. They see an opportunity to present their case, which is a really crass, commercial case, in terms that will appeal to many people in the media and so on. The argument is nonsense. It was never about religion. It might have been inspired by that, but if the ban on drink on Good Friday is really about religion, then how come butchers' shops have never been closed on that day? There has never been a problem with the sale of meat on Good Friday. The reason was to avoid people being drunk and disorderly on a day that was very solemn for many people. The reason it is worth continuing, despite the fact that many people might not have a religious investment on the day, is that we have a national drink problem, which despite lots of posturing by politicians - to use Senator Buttimer's word - is never seriously and sincerely addressed.

We use Ash Wednesday at the beginning of Lent to encourage people to give up smoking. Everybody gets on board, even the irreligious, and good luck to them all. In the same way, instead of being petty and childish about this and scratching this anti-religious itch that seems to bother so many people, who perhaps need some betnovate, we could actually decide that regardless of whether one believes the Christian thing or believes that Jesus Christ was an interesting or inspiring historical figure, or even if one has no truck with any of that, the Good Friday ban is actually useful. We could use this as a public education day, a day when we encourage lots of social, sporting and other activities free of alcohol. In other words, we could turn it into a day of national reflection on our drink problem and how we are going to deal with it, if we want. I am not going to get my knickers in a twist over this; no one needs to do so. The aggressive secularists, however, to use Bertie Ahern's famous phrase, should really grow up and allow some of these traditions to have a modern usage, even if the country has changed in many ways and many people do not buy into the inspiring idea that led to the tradition. It is enlightened modernism rather than a kind of reactionary modernism.

I therefore appeal in conclusion, having heard the elegant contribution of Senator Michelle Mulherin, and with due regard to my friend and colleague, Senator Billy Lawless, who is absolutely right to bring forward a Bill that he believes in, and to Senator Joe O'Reilly, whom I did not hear, that it would be a good idea if the parties allowed their members a free vote on this. This is essentially an idea about culture and the direction of our society.

It is about choice on Good Friday.

Let us respect people. I will grant the Senator that amount of choice, because nobody gets killed.

I would like to sympathise with the Minister of State, because I understand he had a bereavement which prevented him from attending the Seanad the other day. I offer my condolences.

I do not support this Bill I think one of the few good things done by the early Free State Parliament was the introduction of this ban on alcohol on Good Friday. Considering the state of alcohol consumption and the damage it does in this country, I would have thought the last thing we need is another-----

-----free for all on the holiest day of the year. This is all about money.

Whose holiest day of the year?

It is about money and political correctness. Look at the removal of cribs from Dublin hospitals because some people - I presume some kind of secularists - thought that Muslims might be offended. It is a load of rubbish. Have a look at the Muslim countries and see what there is. There is a 365 day a year ban on alcohol in those countries and people put up with it. They suck it up. If one is caught drinking, one is mercilessly flogged. The drinks industry has completely and utterly changed. In the old days, we knew the Jamesons and we knew the Guinnesses. Now it is Diageo. It is some multi-national corporation. There is scarcely a drink in this country that is produced by an Irish company any more. The pubs have changed. In my day, one went into a Dublin pub for conversation. One might see Myles na gCopaleen or Brendan Behan.

And David Norris.

Now, there are huge television screens blasting out music and ghastly soccer matches all the time.

Not at all actually. That is not true.

Good Friday used to be a day of respect. It is the most solemn day in the Christian calendar. It is the day on which Christ died and we are still, according to our Constitution, a Christian and democratic State. I would like to ask about the prayer. I have objected to this prayer because, to me, it is just a rigamarole. All the people who are trying to get rid of Good Friday still support the prayer and now we have this blasted secular minute of silence on top of it.

Look at Sunday. I remember Sunday in Dublin when it was a day one could really enjoy. It was a day of peace, rest and recreation. The shops never opened and when the shops opened, I spoke to some of the workers in Arnotts. They were totally against it. They were pushed and forced into it. That is a matter of workers' rights. The best day in Jerusalem is the Shabbat when nothing happens. It is a day of recreation. Look at the Angelus. People are trying to get rid of the Angelus and water it down. They are using the Protestants as a means of getting rid of it. They are not using this Protestant, even though I am not really a Protestant, but from the real Catholic church, the Church of Ireland, founded by St. Patrick in 423.

No real absence where the Senator worships.

Some 85% of Irish people still acknowledge one Christian denomination.

Then there is the old hoary stuff about tourism. For God's sake. First, the Irish pub is an embarrassment. It is a plague of warts all over Europe, with these completely artificial tractors hanging out of the ceiling and all of that kind of stuff. It is disgusting. Has anybody done a survey of the tourists or asked the tourists what they think? I have not heard anybody introduce evidence that the tourists are bellyaching. I have never heard anyone complain. It is only one day. Pace, Senator Craughwell. It is a bank holiday. If one is going to open pubs, it is an extra day's work. I do not know what he was talking about but he was completely wrong.

It is not a public holiday.

No, but it is a bank holiday. He said it was not a bank holiday and it would be an extra day's work.

He was wrong on both. Senator Catherine Noone, in a thoughtful speech, lamented all the dreadful things that happen due to alcohol, and then she still seemed to think that an extra day's boozing was the solution.

I was saying that they are drinking at home anyway.

I simply do not follow. They are boozing and will still be boozing at home. Open the pubs and one will find people boozing at home every weekend because of the price of drink in the pubs. This is the truth. They will continue to booze at home. What one needs to do is control-----

Is Ireland responsible for some of that boozing?

-----the sale of alcohol in the supermarkets and look at planning permissions. I opposed the planning permissions in my area that led to supermarkets and every shebeen around the place. There is a joint down at the bottom of my road called Booze to Go. I wish to God it would go.

James Joyce was very fond of the pub.

James Joyce never drank before 6 o'clock in the evening.

He went to more pubs, then. The Senator is right. He made a good living out of it.

Then we had Judge Thomas O'Donnell's view that it was extraordinary that pubs could not open on the Munster rugby weekend. I am 73 years old. Rugby was never played on a Sunday in my day. Cricket was never played on a Sunday. Hockey was never played on a Sunday. What is there now? It has been turned into one totally bland year. There are 365 days, all the same. Ireland is being turned into a bland theme park with leprechaun museum, Carrolls' ghastly plastic shillelaghs and squiffy green squash top hats. This is not the Ireland that I love and it is not the Ireland that I want to see.

I am very glad to have been able to take part in this debate. I sat for a couple of hours and I saw people who had not been in the place at all come swanning in and get taken straight away. I know that the Acting Chairman was advised by the staff that I was not to be taken until everybody else had been taken. That is rubbish. I ought to put this on the record so the staff will know. I wrote to Senator Denis O'Donovan, who is the Cathaoirleach, and he raised it at the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. It was felt that, in light of the fact that I am the father of the House and all the rest of these things, that after the leaders had been taken, I should be allowed in from time to time when an appropriate spot was found. I think that is the proper way to deal with things. It is not appropriate to hold somebody to be the very last speaker, and have people coming in-----

There are others after Senator Norris.

That is because I squawked and protested. That is why it is, Senator McFadden.

I ask Senator Norris to conclude.

I have concluded.

As one of the Acting Chairs, I was advised that groups get preference over people who are not members of groups. Senator Norris is one of a very small number of people who is not a member of a group. I have facilitated him and will again, as often as I can, but the groups have preference.

The Acting Chairman is very fair, but advice from the civil servants is wrong.

The Minister of State has indicated that he would like to come in at this point, as is his right. The Minister of State has 15 minutes if he wants to use it. There will then be a small amount-----

I object as a publican.

I accept that, but the Minister of State will be called to contribute from the Government side. When he or she indicates he or she wishes to speak, he or she has 15 minutes. Senator Byrne will be allowed in, because there will be time. There will be nine minutes left over before Senator Lawless speaks again for Senator Byrne and Senator Frank Feighan to somewhat share, if that is possible. Senator Byrne is ahead of Senator Feighan, so she could have eight minutes. He would only get one then. That is if the Minister of State uses his full 15 minutes, which he may not use.

On a point of order, I put down my name last Monday to speak on this.

Maybe within the Fine Gael group, but I only have the roster for now.

When one puts down his or her name and is first down, but then finds that there is a delay-----

Nobody gave me a list of who is in what order in Fine Gael. I just have the roster and I filled it in from the basis of how everybody indicated, if there was a slot available for them.

Nobody is blaming the Acting Chairman, but it is clear that the whole rostering situation does require to be looked at.

If we only have two hours for debate and more than two hours' worth of speaking time is desired by Members, there will be a problem. Maybe we need to schedule more time for certain debates if there is going to be an interest. The Minister of State is very welcome and has 15 minutes.

I thank Deputy Norris for his condolences and the House for indulging me yesterday on a family bereavement.

I have listened carefully to this debate. It has, overall, been an interesting and reflective debate, demonstrating a wide range of sincerely and deeply-held beliefs and opinions. When one listens to the debate, one can recognise how complex this whole area is. It is not a simple area at all. It is quite complex.

The Government is also aware of alcohol-related harm and the huge damage that is done by alcohol. The Public Health (Alcohol) Bill is awaiting progress and I agree that it needs to move on and be enacted.

The Government is not opposed in principle to the Second Reading of this Private Members' Bill, which provides for amendment of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1927 with a view to permitting the sale and supply of intoxicating liquor on Good Friday. I am also pleased that we will not take all Stages this evening as the Bill requires reflection and amendment. As I will outline shortly, the Bill falls well short of what is required in order to reform the Good Friday rules in a comprehensive and non-discriminatory manner.

Current licensing rules are set out in the Licensing Acts 1833 to 2011 and the Registration of Clubs Acts 1904 to 2008. They contain detailed statutory provisions governing the sale, supply and consumption of intoxicating liquor on licensed premises and in registered clubs, including permitted hours of sale. It has long been recognised that the licensing code is in need of comprehensive and thorough reform. Indeed, the Government's legislative programme includes a proposal to bring forward a sale of alcohol Bill which would repeal all the statutory provisions currently set out in the Licensing Acts and the Registration of Clubs Acts and replace them with updated provisions more suited to modern conditions. I need hardly say that conditions that were appropriate in 1833 or 1904 are unlikely to be suitable to today's conditions, and while piecemeal reforms have been implemented over the years, the unfortunate result is a licensing code which lacks consistency and transparency and is quite complicated.

The fact is, however, that more urgent legislative priorities have taken precedence over the drafting of the complex sale of alcohol Bill in recent years. Like many of our licensing laws, the Good Friday restrictions have historical origins which predate the foundation of the State. These restrictions were carried over and reinforced after 1922 and have largely remained in place since then. Perhaps surprisingly, they were not adjusted when the licensing hours were last reviewed by both Houses of the Oireachtas in the context of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2000. It is undeniable that much has changed in the economic and social life of the State since the start of the new century. For example, the tourism sector, aided by low-cost air travel, improved accommodation facilities and varied visitor attractions, now makes a much greater contribution to the economy, including during the busy Easter period. Moreover, as recent census data have confirmed, our population has become more diverse and religious practice has declined.

These are factors which support the case for a thorough re-examination of the current Good Friday rules. Also relevant is the fact that there are already well-known exceptions to the prohibition on the sale of intoxicating liquor on Good Friday, such as for travellers on trains and aeroplanes, as well as those intending to travel, attendees at certain sporting events, hotel residents, etc. These tend to be highlighted each year in media articles in the run-up to Good Friday. Only today, a colleague of mine who runs an off-licence said Holy Thursday evening is by far the busiest day of the year for him. On the other hand, reform of the Good Friday rules cannot be viewed entirely in isolation from the wider context of public concern about excessive consumption of intoxicating liquor and the extent of alcohol-related harm, including significant health risks. In this context, the Government's Public Health (Alcohol) Bill is currently awaiting progress before this House.

I will now turn to the content of the Bill. It is a short Bill which proposes to amend section 2 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1927 in order to remove restrictions on sales of intoxicating liquor on Good Friday. However, while the Bill would, if enacted, remove some Good Friday restrictions it would, due to the complexity of the licensing code, create further anomalies and unfair trading conditions for certain categories of premises. The proposed amendment of the general rule in section 2 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1927 would, for example, serve to permit the sale of intoxicating liquor in off-licences and public houses but would not remove the restriction in respect of restaurants operating on the basis of Part II of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1988. The 1988 Act created a special restaurant licence to cater for the specific needs of the restaurant sector. It means, for example, that applicants are not required to extinguish an existing licence in order to obtain such a licence. Sales for consumption off the premises are not permitted, however. According to the Revenue Commissioners, up to 500 special restaurant licences are currently in use across the country.

Section 14 of the 1988 Act specifies the permitted trading hours for premises operating on the basis of a special restaurant licence. It prohibits the sale of intoxicating liquor at any time on Good Friday. It would clearly be anomalous, as well as potentially discriminatory, to amend the law in order to permit the sale of intoxicating liquor in public houses which happen to operate as restaurants or otherwise provide meals for customers, but not in restaurants holding special restaurant licences.

Section 56 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1927 deals with prohibited hours in registered clubs. These are members' clubs which hold a certificate of registration from the District Court under the Registration of Clubs Acts. According to the Courts Service, over 500 clubs currently qualify as registered clubs. In order to obtain registration, a club must incorporate requirements regarding its management and operation into its rules, including rules which are broadly analogous to the licensing code. They must contain a rule which provides that intoxicating liquor shall not be supplied, subject to minor exceptions, to members or their guests at any time on Good Friday. In order to retain the current symmetry between the rules of registered clubs and licensed premises regarding the sale and supply of intoxicating liquor on Good Friday, an appropriate amendment to the Registration of Clubs Acts would be required.

There are other references to Good Friday in the Licensing Acts 1833 to 2011 which the Private Members' Bill does not address, and failure to do so could create other legal uncertainties. For example, the definition of "weekday" in section 1 of the 1927 Act excludes Good Friday. Section 7 of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1960 permits the sale and consumption of intoxicating liquor by guests in a holiday camp in the context of a substantial meal but only between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Good Friday. It is for these reasons that the view had been taken at Government level that adjustment of the Good Friday rules should preferably be considered in the context of the Sale of Alcohol Bill. As I mentioned already, that Bill is intended to update the law relating to the sale, supply and consumption of alcohol in licensed premises by repealing in their entirety the Licensing Acts 1833 to 2011 and the Registration of Clubs Acts 1904 to 2008, and replacing them with streamlined and updated provisions more suited to modern conditions. This would mean that changes to licensing arrangements for Good Friday could be considered holistically and in a comprehensive way, rather than in a piecemeal manner.

As I mentioned at the outset, the Government is not opposed to the principle underlying this Bill. However, I believe that any reform of the Good Friday rules needs to be carried forward in a manner which does not create further anomalies and unfair competition for categories of licence holders.

I also note the concerns over workers' rights and employment conditions and these are important. They need to be debated further, though not in the context of this Bill, which deals with licensing. We need to avoid the creation of new anomalies in reforming the Good Friday rules so we need further detailed debate. I was asked whether it might be in place for next Good Friday. If we can work together on it we should be able to manage that. I would like the other Bill to be brought forward in the meantime.

I thank the Minister for his brevity. It gives us more time to allow Senators Maria Byrne and Frank Feighan to contribute. The Senators have 15 minutes between them and I will call Senator Lawless at 5.42 p.m. We must conclude by 5.47 p.m.

When I objected to the Minister speaking, I thought the Chair was cutting us off.

I would not do that to Senator Byrne.

I welcome the Minister and the members of the VFI and LVA. I also welcome former Senator Imelda Henry, who does trojan work on behalf of the vintners. I support this Bill. The Good Friday proposal dates back to the Intoxicating Liquor Act 1927 and the proposals also applied to Christmas Day and St. Patrick's Day. In the 1960s St. Patrick's Day was taken from the list and only Good Friday is left. Senator Norris spoke about the Munster rugby game on Good Friday four years ago and that was one of the most positive days we ever witnessed in Limerick. Visitors came from France to play Munster in a quarter final and there was a special exemption licence.

The important thing is choice. Nobody is forcing anybody to go into a pub or forcing a pub to open but people would be given the choice. If pubs wish to open and people wish to go to the pub, they will be able to do so. Many people go to sporting clubs and other places which are permitted to sell alcohol on Good Friday during certain hours, but they are not forced to go.

Some Members mentioned binge drinking. One sees people on Holy Thursday filling up their trolleys in supermarkets as if they were never going to see a drink again. Having the choice of drinking in a regulated manner is much better than forcing people to queue up in supermarkets. People who binge drink have no control over their drinking but if they are in a pub and get a measured drink they remain aware.

Tourism has taken off in Ireland. All the reports show that the number of tourists visiting the country is rising. A few years ago I attended a conference in Tralee organised by a voluntary organisation during the Easter bank holiday weekend. We were invited to go for a meal with the guests attending the conference. Most of the restaurants were closed on Good Friday because of the fact they could not sell alcohol on the day. The hotel in which we were staying served tables in relays because there were so few places open. A number of restaurants close on Good Friday because they do not sell alcohol.

My colleagues in Sinn Féin raised the question of overtime payments for staff. I worked in private industry for approximately 12 years. We worked on Good Friday as it was in our contract of work and were not paid a penny extra because it is not a bank holiday. I think everybody is forgetting that today. While I agree staff must be looked after, they must work within the requirement. The message today is about choice. It is welcome that the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, stated the Government will not oppose the Bill in principle and wants to work with everybody. It is possible that pubs will have the choice of opening on Good Friday next year. That is an important message.

People attending sporting occasions have the choice of drinking. They are not abusing it. Nobody is forcing them to drink and that is an important message to put across.

I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton for his comments. I will be supporting the Bill.

Our final speaker before we go back to Senator Lawless, who is the proposer of the Bill, is Senator Feighan.

I thank Senators Lawless, Boyhan, McDowell and Craughwell for bringing this important Bill to the House today. I welcome my former colleague, Ms Imelda Henry, who did a great deal of work on this issue over many years. When I was growing up in Boyle, County Roscommon, there were 32 pubs. Like every town and village we grew up in a haze of alcohol. Our country would be a great deal better if we did not have that love affair with alcohol. Our diaspora would be better off if we were confident around alcohol. We have this love affair of marking occasions such as baptisms, first communions, confirmations, wedding and deaths in the pub or the hotel.

As we have become more confident and can do without alcohol, we do not need to be minded. I remember when public houses were closed in Dublin for the holy hour, an hour and a half or two hours, and then opened again. In my own town the pubs were supposed to close from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on a Sunday so the men would go home for the Sunday dinner, but invariably most never went home. When I think of that behaviour today, I wonder how we got along. On weekend nights, in particular three or four gardaí had to clear the pubs. This happened in every town and village. Let us consider the level of Garda resources that were used to clear the pubs. Things are different now. The pubs are not as busy and today there are only nine pubs open in my town and they certainly do not open during the day.

Let me describe what Good Friday was like when I was growing up. It was like a scene from "Killinaskully". When one got up in the morning, one would see fellows going to the train. They were travelling so as to have a drink on the train. Then other groups, and I went myself, would go to Enniskillen because the pubs were open and one would meet everybody from Ballinamore or Carrick-on-Shannon, the same would happen in every Border area. The hotels were another option. My local hotel was always packed. I remember asking the hotel manager if we had something to eat could we get a drink. Of course, we got a drink and nobody passed any heed until we ordered seven steaks. The patrons did not mind the drinks but the steaks put people off as that was a time when one was supposed to fast on Good Friday. Then one went to the service.

On the way home from Mass on a Sunday, one would meet fellows who asked what the priest had said. That went on every Sunday. When I think about those times and compare them to today, we have a completely different approach to pubs and alcohol.

I had a pub. I absolutely agree with Senator Leyden in this regard. I was delighted to have a day off on Good Friday and Christmas Day. One could wash down the pub and it was a great day to have off. Most of the pubs, especially in rural areas do not open seven days a week. They are not open for 12 or 13 hours a day. They may open from Wednesday or Thursday to Sunday. Good Friday is not the special day for the publican as it was in times past. It makes absolute sense to open. I agree the wishes of the employees have not been taken on board. I certainly think this angle should be looked at but it is very good for the tourists coming to Dublin.

The proposed change in the licensing laws is a step in separating church and State. I will be supporting the Bill. Another factor is that a pub is a controlled environment. There is an issue with people drinking at home as there are no measures of the amount of alcohol consumed and alcohol is cheaper. We must address the question of people being able to buy so much alcohol for what it costs in the off-licence. People are more mature and confident than they were 30 or 40 years ago, when one needed the gardaí to clear the pubs every night of the week. We have a better attitude to drink, but we still have a long way to go. In other countries, one does hear the howls and the screams that one hears on the streets of any town in Ireland. We have come quite a bit in the past number of years.

Senator Lawless has five minutes

I will be brief. I thank the Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, Deputy Stanton, for taking this vigorous debate this evening. I thank my co-sponsors, Senators McDowell, Craughwell and Boyhan, and my fellow Seanad Members who contributed to and are supporting this Bill. It is 35 years since I first mooted this idea. I was president of the Vintners' Federation of Ireland in 1982. It is a long time being talked about and a long time coming.

The Irish pub is an intrinsic part of our hugely successful tourism offering and a major employer in the economy. Ireland has moved on and is now a multicultural society. As a modern European nation, we have outgrown this dated practice. I hold this view as a citizen and an Oireachtas representative who respects all traditions and faith. This Bill is about giving people a choice. The public has the option not to drink. The licensed premises have the option not to open on Good Friday, if that is their wish. I thank everybody, including the Acting Chairman, for this intensive debate. I again thank the Minister of State.

I thank Senator Lawless. I acknowledge the presence in the House of the chairman of the Licensed Vintners' Association, Ms Deirdre Devitt, and the chairman of the Vintners' Federation of Ireland, Mr. Pat Crotty, and their chief executives, Mr. Padraig Cribben and Mr. Donall O'Keeffe, who listened to the vigorous debate in the past couple of hours.

We have had a very good debate. I thank the 16 Senators who contributed to the two-hour debate. We have dealt with the topic very well.

Question put and declared carried.

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

We are not sitting next Tuesday.

I know but it is the next Tuesday that is the convention.

Is it the next Tuesday we sit?

Yes. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 18 April 2017.

When is it proposed to sit again?

At 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.

The Seanad adjourned at 5.40 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 13 April 2017.