The annual ban on the sale of alcohol on Good Friday in Ireland is one of those traditions, along with the wealthy being encouraged to marry their close relatives, that ought to have been abolished long ago. Each year, because of this ban, at the doorsteps of our nation’s off-licenses hordes of people gather and, like crowds of belligerent, liquor-dependent ducklings, form neat queues in anticipation of their re-opening; and early reports are suggesting that this year is garnering a record turnout.
Outside one Dublin off-license, Murphy’s Hooch Shack, dozens have already gathered. Undeterred by the cold evening and night’s wait in store, some have brought tents; others have not brought tents, and so, have briefly left to go home and get tents. As they settle down for the long wait, chatter begins to break out. Stories are swapped and Thermos flasks containing, to the disappointment of all, nothing more exciting than tea or coffee are passed round. In short, a community is being formed, as indeed they are all over the country. In fact, it’s been reported that one of these communities has, in recognition of the modern democratic process, elected a woman who appeared on First Dates Ireland– the closest thing to a reality star they had- to be their designated leader.
Lester Bunty, one of the men waiting outside Murphy’s Hooch Shack, when asked what drove him to join the queue, said “To be honest, I’m not that much of a drinker. I’d go most weeks without drinking, but… that’s not to say that I’m not happier knowing the option’s there. I like having the option to drink, ya know? Like, I have a DVD copy of Flubber at home. I’ve never watched it. But I like knowing that it’s there, that I could watch it whenever I wanted to and if someone, say perhaps a thief, or a spurned lover, took away that DVD, I’d be distraught… Mostly though I thought this was the queue for that ice-cream stand over there and I’m now too embarrassed to leave. I’ve had to call my wife to tell her I won’t be home tonight and everything, it’s awful.”
In amongst the patient queuers, as they wait for the interminable agony of their deprivation, or ‘Good Friday’ as it’s known, to pass, there is some growing discontent. One of the more desperate members in their midst begins to cry out that they should just “Fucking loot the shitting Hooch Shack!” This man, who I later found out to be- after having shared a pear and a packet of bombay mix with him- both named Plinth Maelstrom, and a more reasonable person than either his name or the following incident would suggest, attempted to throw a brick through the window of the off-license. However, having already gone several hours without drinking, he was shaking to such an extent that he catastrophically missed and did some serious damage to both the adjacent ice-cream stand and its owner, Philip.
As the day progresses and more and more people, their eyes glazed with desperation, join the queue and it becomes more and more apparent that, for the sake of covering this story, I may have to take Plinth Maelstrom up on his offer of spending the night with him, under what he rather forcefully insists on me calling ‘The Dude Pit’- a soiled duvet affixed to the detached bonnet of a Ford Fiesta- it is evident that the proposal to revoke the ban in time for next Easter next year would be universally welcomed.