Why can’t we have our bank holidays on a Friday instead of a Monday?

Wouldn't it have been better to put the extra bank holiday at a different time of year? So asks John Dolan in his weekly column
Why can’t we have our bank holidays on a Friday instead of a Monday?

St Brigid in willow, an artwork at the National Museum of Ireland - Country Life at Turlough Park, Castlebar, crafted by artists Aidan Crotty and Naomi Rogers. The saint will be honoured with a public holiday on Monday.

WELL, what are your plans for the new bank holiday on Monday?

That’s right, in case you forgot amidst the daily grind of the 70 days of January (OK, it just felt like that!), we have a shiny new bank holiday coming up.

St Brigid’s Day is being celebrated as a holiday for the first time on February 6 - named after yet another Irish saint who may or may not have existed, or who may indeed be a composite of two different people.

But we won’t get too cynical about that - after all, a day off work is a day off work, and if modern-day Ireland wants to adopt Brigid as a feminist icon, what harm?

But, to repeat my original question, what are your plans for Monday, presuming you are not one of the many who will still be working that day, or are a full-time carer?

A trip to the seaside and an ice cream, in the great tradition of bank holidays perhaps?

Hmm, considering the forecast is 10C and rain - hardly a shock in the first week of February - that scenario seems unlikely.

A day out then, dodging the showers in Fota or Gougane Barra while clutching your flask and packet of Taytos?


Or perhaps, given the time of year, you are just planning a duvet day, to recharge the old batteries. Most of us certainly won’t have much spare cash around after the Christmas splurge anyway.

I hate to sound ungrateful about this extra bank holiday - a day I will be working anyway - but wouldn’t it have been better inserted into the summertime calendar, when families and others can plan a lovely day out, rather than in the depths of winter?

Yes, I know Brigid is associated with the start of spring, but we could have remembered another venerated Irish female, St Dymphna, instead in May! Her alleged back story is at least as compelling as Brigid’s.

Ireland now has ten bank holidays a year and, aside from Christmas and Easter, I would be happy for all the rest to be crammed into the summer months - yes, even St Patrick’s Day could be moved back to a time of year when your face doesn’t go numb from the cold while you’re waiting to catch a glimpse of your child’s blue face in a shivering parade of goose-bump ridden people.

And, since I’ve gone all-out whinge on this new bank holiday - I have another motion to propose.

Why do all the bank holidays have to be on a Monday?

As far as I can see, there is no earthly reason why most of them can’t be moved to Friday instead.

Now, that’s my kind of long weekend, and probably yours too - one that lasts from Friday to Sunday, rather than Saturday to Monday.

Fridays are happy days. Fridays are when you want to go out and have fun. Friday, I’m in love, as The Cure sang. Thank feck it’s Friday, as the US restaurant chain proudly proclaims.

Mondays? Ugh.

As The Carpenters sang, rainy days and Mondays always get me down... and let’s not get started on Bob Geldof’s take on the first day of the week.

Ireland has long languished near the bottom of a global table when it comes to the number of bank holidays, and it was great that the authorities decided we needed to bump them up. But a Monday in February just can’t get my heart racing at all.

Why have bank holidays on a Monday, then?

It seems the tradition dates back to 1871, when British banker and politician John Lubbock, the first Baron of Avebury, regulated them in the UK statute book.

Historically, the Bank of England and British Exchequer took as many as 40 days off a year to mark royal events, Christian festivals and saints days - a great perk, but remember, this was in the days before the poor bankers got million quid bonuses.

Anyway, in 1830, this number was slashed to 18 days, and in 1834, to just four ‘bank holidays’ - as they became known.

Lubbock regulated all of this in 1871 with his Bank Holidays Bill and the first official days off in the UK for all workers were Easter Monday, Whit Monday (the day after Pentecost), the first Monday in August, and Boxing Day.

This was all well and good, as clearly the banks preferred Monday to be their day off - but why keep the tradition now? Friday makes far more sense as a day off, doesn’t it?

Methinks we missed a trick when we introduced St Brigid’s Day and kept to the Monday tradition.

It’s not as though other countries stick to Mondays for their own bank holidays.

For instance, next Wednesday is a bank holiday in Slovenia, marking the anniversary of the death of their national poet, and next Friday is a public holiday in Malta, marking the Feast of St Paul’s Shipwreck - an incident I’m pretty sure St Paul would have preferred to forget.

The good news is there is still scope for an extra bank holiday or two to be introduced to the Irish calendar. After all, they have 11 in Scotland and the EU average is 12.8.

Romania, Lithuania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Finland and Cyprus get 15 days each every year, while India has a whopping 21!

Ireland’s ten days is just above Taiwan, who have nine bank holidays per annum - and what on earth poor Mexico did to only have eight is beyond me!

So, next time the powers-that-be look to add to our bank holiday rota, any chance of making the day off a Friday?

Whatever your plans are on Monday, enjoy your day!

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