Bank Holidays – Where Do They Come From?

Posted on February 4, 2022

The Irish Government has announced an extra once-off public holiday this year. It will fall on Friday 18 March 2022. This once-off public holiday is in place to recognsie the efforts of the general public, volunteers and all workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in remembrance of people who lost their lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

In 2023, Ireland will have a new permanent annual bank holiday in February to mark St. Bridget’s Day. The public holiday will be the first Monday in February, except where St Brigid’s day (1 February) happens to fall on a Friday, in which case that Friday 1 February will be a public holiday.

There are now Ten Public Holidays recognised in Ireland:

1st January: New Years Day

17th March: St Patricks Day

18 March: Day of Remembrance and Recognition

Movable Date: Easter Monday (18th April 2022)

The 1st Monday in May: May Day (2nd May 2022)

The 1st Monday in June: Previously known as Whit Weekend (6th June 2022)

The 1st Monday in August: August Holiday (1st August 2022)

The last Monday in October: Oiche Shamhna (31st October 2022)

25th December: Christmas Day

26th December: St Stephens Day

Good Friday is a bit of a strange one, for some companies treat it as a National Holiday and others don’t, as it is not an official Bank Holiday. It is a Public Holiday in Northern Ireland only. In 2018, the prohibition of the sale of alcohol on Good Friday was lifted. Banks also close on Good Friday. (So does KennCo!) It falls on Friday April 15th 2022, this year.

Origins of Bank Holidays

We all love our Bank Holidays and with the brighter evenings and the summer approaching, we have three days to look forward to in May, June and August. So we’ve decided to take a quick look at the history of how our Irish Bank holidays came about.Bank Holidays

Until 1834, the Bank of England observed about 33 saints’ days and religious festivals as holidays, but in 1834 this was reduced to just four: 1 May (May Day), 1 November (All Saints’ Day), Good Friday and Christmas Day. In 1871, the first legislation relating to bank holidays was passed when Liberal politician and banker Sir John Lubbock introduced the Bank Holidays Act 1871, which specified the days in the table below.

England, Wales & Ireland



New Year’s Day

Easter Monday

Good Friday

Whit Monday (June)

First Monday in May

First Monday in August

First Monday in August


Christmas Day

Boxing Day/St Stephens Day


Under the Act, no person was required to make any payment or to do any act upon a bank holiday which they would not be required to do on Christmas Day or Good Friday. At this time, Ireland was still under British Rule, so we also benefited from the official bank holidays. This was also a time when workers were not entitled to the current 20 minimum day’s paid annual leave, and for some, may have been the only days apart from the weekends when they got off work!

The act did not include Good Friday or Christmas Day as bank holidays as they were already recognised as common law holidays since before records began. In 1903, the Bank Holiday (Ireland) Act added 17 March, Saint Patrick’s Day, as a bank holiday for Ireland only.

In 1939, the Oireachtas passed the Holidays (Employees) Act 1939 which designated the public holidays like Christmas Day; St. Stephen’s Day; St. Patrick’s Day; Easter Monday; Whit Monday and the first Monday in August. The Holidays (Employees) Act 1973, replaced the Whit Monday holiday with the first Monday in June. New Year’s Day was not listed in the Act but was added by Statutory Instrument in 1974. The October Holiday (Halloween) was added in 1977. The first Monday in May (commonly known as May Day) was added in 1993 and first observed in 1994.

We hope this information is useful to you, and you enjoy all your summer Bank Holidays, and while you are it, you might raise a glass to Sir John Lubbock who started the Bank Holiday Ball Rolling.

If you’re thinking of going away during the next bank holiday weekend, why not get a Travel Insurance quote today. KennCo Travel Insurance also includes cover for nights away in Ireland when one-nights accommodation is pre-booked. You can find all the Travel Insurance features/benefits here and get a Travel Insurance quote here now!

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