I am asking the Dáil to agree with the hours set out in the Bill. I want to go briefly through them, and to measure the exact effect of an acceptance of those hours by the Dáil. Every week day, except Saturday, the present hours are from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. in towns with a population of over 5,000, and from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. elsewhere. The proposal is a uniform set of hours from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. That will mean that the else-wheres will not close any earlier than at present on these five days, and that the towns with a population of over 5,000 will close one hour earlier. In point of fact, Deputies are aware that the majority of licensed houses in towns with a population over 5,000 do close before 11 p.m. Many of them close even half-an-hour earlier than the proposed closing hour in the Bill. On Saturday what happens? The Saturday hours at present are from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. in towns with a population of over 5,000, and from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. elsewhere. Now, remember that the elsewheres are by far the bigger proportion of the trade, and they do not close any earlier on the five week days other than Saturday. They will not close any earlier under the Bill than they do at present, and on Saturday they have half-an-hour longer than they have at present. Therefore, the net effect, so far as the closing hour goes, of the proposals in the Bill is that towns with a population of over 5,000 will close one hour earlier than at present on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and will close half an hour earlier on Saturday. The remainder will close at the same hour on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and get an extension of half-an-hour over the existing hours on Saturday. It is as well for Deputies to refresh their minds constantly by a glance at the Memorandum affixed to the Bill, because people are inclined to wax rhetorical and run away with false impressions about the Bill and its exact effects. I have heard nothing in the discussion to convince me that there is anything unreasonable or anything unwise in these proposals. I am challenged to say why there should be any earlier closing hour on Saturdays than on any other day. Evidently the legislators of the past saw some reason, and we ought to ask ourselves what it was. Deputies who are from country towns know well that Saturday night is almost traditionally a more rowdy and a more disorderly night than the other nights of the week, and I submit that the explanation is obvious. It is an unfortunate explanation. It is that the bulk of those who draw a weekly wage are paid on Saturdays, and a somewhat earlier closing on Saturday, if only for that reason, is advisable.
I contend that if the Deputy's suggestion were accepted, if that extra half hour which he seeks were conceded, that that particular half hour on Saturday night would be worth more to the licensed traders than perhaps two hours on any other night. That is an unfortunate fact. Now, some people say it is very much a question for the individual. Let the Government mind its own business. They might even prefix an adjective to "business." Really, if you develop that, it means that there ought to be no restrictions at all on the sale of drink. There should be a twenty-four hours' day. That, of course, is a matter of angles again. It might be one solution of the Irish question, but it is not a desirable solution, and the whole underlying thesis of this Bill, and of previous legislation on this matter is that this is a trade which needs to be hedged round with restrictions and with regulations; that it is not a trade like any other trade, like the butcher or the baker or the candlestick maker; that people have to be protected from themselves and from their appetites—their intemperate appetites. Otherwise we should leave the public houses open all night and let people drink themselves into St. John of God's or anywhere else they wanted to go. If Deputies think that that should be the position then they ought to come out and say so. If they admit that there is any case at all for regulations, then those regulations must be such as seem necessary from time to time in the changing circumstances.
I have satisfied myself very fully that these hours are not unreasonable, that in fact they meet with general acceptance, no matter what the trade, which is well organised, very vocal and highly articulate, may say to the contrary. They are all well aware that there is nothing harsh or unreasonable in the proposals set out here in this memorandum. The morning hour of 9 is, I think, quite all right. I have pointed out that there is no change in the position with regard to exemption orders, but Deputy McGoldrick does not think that that meets the case in the towns. There you have either muddled thinking or dishonest thinking. I will give Deputy McGoldrick the benefit of the doubt and say that it is muddled thinking, because he starts by saying: "Look at the poor man who has had to walk 20 miles with his cattle to a fair; he has got drenched with the rain and is in danger of getting pneumonia and he is unable to get a drink."