It’s Good Friday and there’s been plenty of media debate about the decision to allow Limerick pubs to open tonight because of the Munster-Leinster rugby match.
Christian/Catholic religious tradition means that pubs in Ireland are legally obliged to close on two days of the year – Good Friday and Christmas Day. In a society which is becoming more religiously diverse and increasingly secular, many question whether the traditional catholic ethos should continue to have the same prominence. This is typically manifested in calls for RTE to drop the Angelus, for Christmas cribs and trees not to be displayed in public buildings etc etc..
The secularist argument is that if you allow Christian symbols and traditions, you must also allow those of all other religions. This would obviously get messy and their real objective is to get rid of the Christian items, rather than facilitate the other religions.
Although I don’t personally practice any religion, I find it objectionable that all religious tradition must be jettisoned in order to satisfy the demands of political correctness.
Some years ago I watched a discussion on BBC involving former Labour party government minister Roy Hattersley and a coloured lesbian lady whose name escapes me. They were discussing some recent anti-gay comments reported in the media. Hattersley spouted the usual liberal, politically-correct line, something to the effect that “we must be intolerant of such intolerance” which, I admit, would have mirrored my own immediate response.
However, the lesbian lady stopped him and said she profoundly disagreed. While she found the published comments offensive, they did not oppress her. And that, she said, was the critical yardstick in a free society. It was an eye-opener for me and it makes sense.
So, applying that principle to Christian/Catholic Ireland, what would it do to our traditions? Well, the wearing or public display of religious symbols may offend some people, but it certainly doesn’t oppress them. So, in with the retention of Christmas cribs in public places, crucifixes in hospitals, schools etc.. Ditto the Angelus on RTE.
However, closing pubs on Good Friday & Christmas day can be seen to oppress those who want to have a drink in a pub on those days, so out the legal ban must go. Naturally, it is up to each publican to decide whether he/she wants to open on those days, so their own religious sensitivities are not oppressed. And the necessary legislation should ensure that pub staff can also opt out – while including a condition that working on Xmas day earns 3-4 times the normal hourly rate.
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