Licensing laws: NI remains ‘oasis in the desert’ says minister

Licensing laws in NI have come under scrutiny again

A presbyterian minister has said he is happy for Northern Ireland to be living in the past, amid calls to update its “antiquated” licensing laws.

It comes after the Republic of Ireland’s parliament voted to change the law to allow pubs to serve alcohol on Good Friday.

Rev Ian Brown

Rev Ian Brown of Martyr’s Memorial Church on the Ravenhill Road in Belfast, said: “The licensing laws here are not unlike the issue of gay marriage. We’re told we need to leave the distant past behind, update ourselves into the 21st century. I’m not really too bothered about that.

“For Ulster to be a little oasis in the desert I’m perfectly happy with that.

“Just because one country updates its law, I don’t feel the compulsion to hang on their coat tails.”

Describing the alcohol ban for pubs on Good Friday as “no big concession”, Rev Brown added: “Easter is a time to consider the death of Christ – the most pivotal event in all of history. To shutter off a little time for reflection is beneficial to everyone.”

Hospitality Ulster's Colin Neill

Colin Neill, Chief Executive of Hospitality Ulster, said £16 million a year is lost to the economy through “antiquated” laws.

He said Thursday’s decision to allow alcohol to be served in Ireland on Good Friday leaves NI even further behind in the race to attract tourists at Easter.

He said: “We totally respect that Easter is an important period for many in Northern Ireland. But having a glass of wine with your lunch or a social pint of beer with your friends and family in a bar or restaurant is not disrespectful, nor does it take away from the importance of Easter.”

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