Irish wage rugby vs church war on T-shirts

Fri Mar 26, 2010 7:30am EDT
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DUBLIN (Reuters Life!) - Thirsty sports fans have won one battle in Ireland's clash between religious customs and the new habits of the post "Celtic Tiger" era -- and they have the T-shirts to prove it.

A judge granted an exemption to pubs in the western city of Limerick from the usual prohibition of alcohol sales on Good Friday, the day commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, to allow drinking during a match of two provincial rugby teams.

After Thursday's court ruling, traders in Limerick quickly put T-shirts on the market with slogans like "Officially bigger than the Catholic Church: Munster Rugby" and "Mass will now take place at Thomond Park," referring to Munster's stadium.

Limerick was the last stronghold of Catholic forces in a 1690s war against Protestants that defined the terms of a religious confrontation still dividing the island.

For many people the 2009 victories of the Irish national and provincial rugby teams were the highlights of a year otherwise mostly remembered for the deepest recession in history.

But in December Limerick also became first city to lose its bishop over a clerical child sex abuse scandal that has seriously eroded the authority of the church and is still reverberating with another high-profile resignation this week.

"We have no bishop, no minister and no hurling team, but we can drink on Good Friday," read another T-shirt in Limerick, whose member of parliament last month resigned as defense minister to fight allegations of perjury and whose Gaelic sports club has also been hurt by an internal dispute.

The Irish Independent newspaper quoted one priest and Munster fan expressing his disappointment over Thursday's court decision: "Good Friday was a special day and a different day in our culture and our history -- a day to slow down and reflect," Father Adrian Egan told the paper.

(Reporting by Andras Gergely, editing by Paul Casciato)