KERRY COUNTY COUNCIL has confirmed that it has sent a letter to the Minister for Justice outlining the nature a recently passed motion which called for drink-driving limits to be relaxed in rural areas.
The controversial motion was passed by the Council last week having been proposed by the independent councillor and publican Danny Healy-Rae. It generated significant debate but has already been dismissed by one minister as “grossly irresponsible”.
The motion called for the gardaí to be allowed issue permits to people in the most isolated parts of the country in order to allow them to drive home after having ‘two or three’ drinks.
The idea has already been dismissed by the government which pointed to the reduction in road deaths as as result of stricter drink-driving laws in Ireland and the motion drew widespread criticism from fellow councillors, the Road Safety Authority and other agencies.
But a spokesperson for Kerry County Council has confirmed that a letter was sent to the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter’s office last Friday and a response was received acknowledging receipt of the letter.
The letter outlined people’s views on the matter and the nature of the debate which the motion sparked across the country last week. It also carried details of the motion and the vote itself, the spokesperson said.
Controversially the motion was passed with the support of only five councillors with three voting against and seven abstaining. Twelve councillors were absent from the debate and the vote.
The Kerry County Council spokesperson said it was hopeful of receiving a response to the letter – signed by the meetings administrator Ger O’Brien – before councillors meet again on 18 February.
Responding to the motion last week the Department of Justice referred queries to the Department of Transport which immediately dismissed Healy-Rae’s proposal.
A spokesperson said: “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 had argued that people in the most rural and isolated parts of the country needed to keep in touch with others and that the strict drink-driving laws – maximum blood-alcohol level must not exceed 50mg per 100ml of blood – were too restrictive in certain parts of the country.
“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,” he told TheJournal.ie.
“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.”
Separately Kerry County Council did not rule out looking into a possible conflict of interest raised by Healy-Rae being a publican and proposing the motion.
The spokesperson added there had been no complaints made to the council at this time.
“Grossly irresponsible”: Shatter hits back at rural drink-driving proposal