ON THE CALENDAR TODAY
Public holidays in Ireland
Ireland has 9 public holidays, named both in English and Irish: New Year’s Day (Lá Bliana Nua), St. Patrick’s Day (Lá Fhéile Pádraig, March 17), Easter Monday (Luan Cásca), moveable Mondays in May (Lá Bealtaine), June (Lá Saoire i mí an Mheithimh), August (Lá Saoire i mí Lúnasa) and October (Lá Saoire i mí Dheireadh Fómhair), Christmas Day (Lá Nollag), and St. Stephen’s Day (Lá Fhéile Stiofáin, December 26). These so called Irish “bank holidays” require from most employers to grant their workers paid days off.
Holidays in Ireland are largely influenced by religion or the rich cultural heritage, but there are also occasions, such as the one in August, that are simply vacation breaks. When a holiday falls on a weekend, there is no mention of moving it to the closest regular workday, because there are too many free days in the national calendar.
The first Irish public holidays were established by the UK’s Bank Holidays Act 1871, where four main occasions (apart from the implicit Christmas Day and Good Friday) were proclaimed: Easter Monday, Whit Monday, August Holiday and St. Stephen's Day. The next such document was introduced more than thirty years later; Bank Holiday (Ireland) Act 1903 finally established the long-known Saint Patrick’s Day. It was not until 1939, however, that this holiday, along with five others (all above except for Good Friday), was regulated by the Oireachtas in the Holidays (Employees) Act. More changes came in the 1970s: in 1973, Whit Monday was reestablished as the June Holiday (first Monday of the month); in 1974, a Statutory Instrument added to the Act of 1939 introduced New Year’s Day into the national calendar. In 1993, May Day became another public holiday.
The laws that grant extra payment or free days for employees are predominantly respected, due to the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997. They entitle full-time workers to have a paid day off, a double salary, or an additional leave replacing the observance; the employer decides which o these the worker will be receiving. If the employee is not informed about it 14 days before the holiday, he or she can feel free to take a paid day off. The situation is a bit more complicated for part-time workers, who might be offered either of these options in various configurations, but only if they have worked for at least 40 hours in the five weeks preceding the holiday.
Ireland is majorly a Catholic country, which is why historically most of its holidays have been shaped by religion. Some might include in their celebration other folkloristic references. Hence, festivities are mainly connected to the Church or civic traditions, emphasizing the importance of national integration. Irish secondary schools have more than half a year off with mid-term vacation such as the Halloween break or the Shrove break. The Irish embrace their holidays fully, and most particularly the ones specified as public.