A Northern Ireland minister is planning to review Sunday shopping opening hours, in a move which is likely to concern church leaders in the province.
The review could result in larger shops being given the go-ahead to open for longer on Sundays.
Social Development Minister, Alex Attwood, argued that the current 1pm to 6pm opening hours needed to be reconsidered with a prospect of allowing greater flexibility.
But he added that it was important to recognise the significance of Sunday for many families.
He said: “The current restrictions have been in place for more than 10 years”.
“Consumers now have greater expectations. Allowing earlier opening on Sundays could boost the local economy, benefit the tourist industry and support regeneration of town and city centres. This would be very useful in the current economic environment and going forward.”
Mr Attwood continued: “I would like to look at ways of introducing flexibility around shop opening hours while retaining the tradition of Sunday as a family day. I believe a review would be a timely and balanced way to go forward.”
The minister said he was “keen to hear the views of everyone in the community on this subject”.
In April churchgoers in Northern Ireland opposed a proposal to move Belfast City Marathon to a Sunday from its traditional May Day bank holiday date.
Churchgoers had hit out at the proposed switch with some saying they would not be able to participate because of their views on the Sabbath.
Others were concerned that a Sunday marathon would disrupt the thousands trying to get to church on that day.
But the proposals were halted by council officials at Belfast City Council who agreed to suspend the issue for a year, and guaranteed that next year the event would not be on a Sunday.
Chairman of the development committee, DUP William Humphrey, said: “The concept of the idea of running the marathon on a Sunday must be postponed to allow the marathon committee to have a consultation process and consult with everyone including the churches”.
“No changes will happen without faith based groups being consulted and this should happen as soon as possible.
“But I can say that next year, the marathon will be held on the Bank Holiday Monday again”, he added.