In 1923, twenty years had passed since St. Patrick’s Day had become an officially recognised public holiday. It was the second national saint’s day after Irish independence, but had a long shadow cast on it that year as the country was still in the grip of the Civil War. In 1923, it was still a ‘dry’ holiday, as no public houses were open. The ban on opening the pubs on March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day, was sanctioned by Dail Eireann. Ironically, James O’Mara, who was behind the day being made a national holiday, was the chief supporter of such measures. One TD was heard quipping that “the drowning of the shamrock” was “a direct insult to the saint.” Democratic Countess Markievicz made the point that hotels must abide by the law too, because poorer members of society, who usually drank in pubs, were penalized while the rich, who mainly frequented hotels, were allowed to purchase alcohol there. “I do not see why rich people should not be kept off their drink as well as poor people.”.
The reasoning behind it was religious in origin, as St. Patrick’s Day fell during Lent, a period of abstinence. Up until 1973, the only place that could legally sell alcohol was in the members’ lounge at the Royal Dublin Dog Show, which, not surprisingly, was packed to capacity!
Freeman’s Journal 16 March 1923
17 March 1923 – Weekly Freeman’s Journal – Dublin, Dublin, Republic of Ireland
Dublin Evening Telegraph 16 March 1923