THE GOVERNMENT HAS dismissed a motion backed by Kerry County Council to relax drink-driving limits in rural parts of Ireland in order to allow isolated people to have “two or three” drinks before driving home.
The council last night voted in favour of a motion put forward by the independent councillor Danny Healy-Rae to allow gardaí to issue permits to people in the most isolated parts of the country to allow them to drive after drinking alcohol.
But the Department of Transport has dismissed the idea saying that relaxation of existing drink-driving limits was not needed given that stricter limits had led to a reduction in deaths on Irish roads.
When this response to his proposal was put to Healy-Rae this evening he responded: “We’ll see about that.”
The motion has drawn widespread criticism today from fellow councillors – many of whom either abstained or were absent from last night’s vote – as well as the Road Safety Authority and an alcohol awareness charity.
The current maximum blood-alcohol level is 50mg per 100ml of blood for most drivers and 20mg for learner and professional drivers.
The vote last night was passed by five to three with seven abstentions and 12 councillors not present. On foot of the motion being passed, the council had planned to write to the Department of Justice to lobby it on the matter.
However when contacted today, the Department referred the matter to the Department of Transport.
Contacted by TheJournal.ie, a spokesperson for the Department said: “Last year was the safest on record for road deaths. Ireland is now the sixth safest country in the EU.
“Dublin is now the safest city in the EU for its roads, and motorways are among the safest roads in Ireland. Stricter rules on drink driving have played a key part in that achievement.
“Unfortunately, rural areas are among the most dangerous roads in Ireland. We need to be looking at how to make our roads safer, particularly in rural areas, instead of trying to reverse existing measures which are clearly working.”
Healy-Rae told TheJournal.ie last night that his idea was aimed at helping people “in every parish who are isolated and who can’t get out of their place at night”.
He explained: “I see the merit in having a stricter rule of law for when there’s a massive volume of traffic and where there’s busy roads with massive speed. But on the roads I’m talking about, you couldn’t do any more than 20 or 30 miles per hour and it’s not a big deal. I don’t see any big issue with it.”
Contacted this evening to respond to the government’s dismissal of his proposal, Healy-Rae – brother of TD Michael Healy-Rae – said: “We’ll see about that… I can’t talk to you right now because I am going in the door.”