Easter has come and gone like many Easters before; it has been a Time Of Change in the political and social fabric of Ireland. This Easter unlike many that have gone before, there weren't guns on the streets or megaphone diplomacy from the political powers in force. But there were changes to precepts of the type that have formed the social fabric of a nation. Because this year, for the first time in ninety-one years, public houses were permitted to open, it was finally possible to buy alcohol on Good Friday. Gone were the days of tourists wandering bereft in our cities wondering why they couldn't go to an Irish bar Friday have a drink and engage in the craic they had come to see.

Gone too were the queues on Holy Thursday at off licenses, stocking up for one of the two dry days in Ireland. The other day, of course, being Christmas Day when the bars or pubs will remain closed.

But why this change and why now?

Is it because the powers that be have finally acknowledged the changes that have come about in the country for the past decade or two? Perhaps, although some cynics will assert that the pubs, public houses or bars to the uninitiated, were never really closed if one knew the signal to gain access or which door to tap if one was as they say "dying for a drink." And of course, given the stubborn nature of the Irish, there were the pubs that refused to open on this Good Friday.

Cynics will again assert that it was their first Good Friday remaining closed. But that is the cynics' opinion.

However much more dramatic events have happened over Easters in this little outpost of the world. Easter 1916 saw the Easter Rising against British rule on the island, a rebellion that was to pave the way for Irish independence.

But at the time it was not a rebellion that won the hearts of Irish people on the ground. If anything, it spurred the Dubliners of the time to taunt the soldiers of the rebellion as they were led away to prison and their ultimate execution. This execution was what eventually swayed the Irish people to side with the forces of rebellion and laid the seeds of the War of Independence.

More Easters brought more change

The Good Friday Agreement, an agreement reached after hours, days of negotiation between Irish and British politicians aided by Senator Mitchell of the U.S. that was finally to bring a semblance of peace to Northern Ireland, happened as the name implies, at Easter time. Twenty years ago this week the deal was agreed, and we were given another Easter event to celebrate alongside the commemorations of the Easter 1916 rising. The Easter lilies, once worn on coat lapels to signify political allegiance, now bloom on coffee tables and church altars.

Children in the northern part of the island eat their Easter eggs without fear of gunshot, and maybe the memorable Easters of the past have guaranteed a change more important than being able to buy alcohol on a Good Friday.

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