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Dublin: 13 °C Tuesday 2 September, 2014

Kerry councillors back plan to allow drink-driving ‘in moderation’

Councillor Danny Healy-Rae, who put forward the motion, told TheJournal.ie that it would help people who are isolated and can’t leave their homes to go to the pub anymore.

Image: Alcohol and car keys photo via Shutterstock

KERRY COUNTY COUNCILLORS have voted in favour of a motion which would allow people in rural Ireland to have ‘two or three’ drinks and still drive.

The motion put forward by councillor Danny Healy-Rae calls on the Minister for Justice to allow Gardaí to issue permits to people in the most isolated parts of the country to allow them to drive after drinking some alcohol.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie this evening, Danny Healy-Rae said the idea was to help “those people in every parish who are isolated and who can’t get out of their place at night”.

“A lot of these people are living in isolated rural areas where there’s no public transport of any kind, and they end up at home looking at the four walls, night in and night out, because they don’t want to take the risk of losing their licence,” he told TheJournal.ie.

The motion was passed at a Council meeting this afternoon by five votes to three. It is believed that seven councillors abstained while 12 were absent when the vote was taken towards the end of a long meeting.

The councillor said the idea had originated from people who visited his clinics around the constituency to discuss problems and issues who had to leave immediately afterwards because they cannot drink and drive home.

“The pub is invariably the only social outlet left in rural Ireland and they’re getting scarce now – just one or two in every village,” he said.

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.

Healy-Rae said the current drink-driving rules are forcing an older generation to stay at home.

These people that are being isolated at present, all the wisdom and all the wit and all the culture that they had, the music and the singing, that’s all being lost to the younger generation because these older people might as well be living in Japan and Jerusalem because the younger generation don’t see them at all anymore.

These characters are being isolated now at home, and a lot of them falling into depression.

Healy-Rae said he understood why people would oppose the suggestion but said it was important for rural Ireland:

I know there’ll be opposition. I know that it will be people in urban areas who have access to different outlets than the pub, but in rural parishes, that’s well we have – we don’t have anything else. All they want to do [here] is talk to neighbours, talk to friends, play cards, talk about the match and the price of cattle, about such a lady going out with such a fella, and it’s harmless.

The current maximum blood-alcohol level is 50mg per 100ml of blood for most drivers and 20mg for learner and professional drivers. Although it varies depending on driver, this is roughly equivalent to less than one pint of beer. The level of fatalities on Irish roads dropped significantly over the past five years with the introduction of lower alcohol limits for drivers and alcohol checkpoints.

The councillor called on Minister for Justice Alan Shatter to consider the move and said all parts of Ireland should not be treated the same when it comes to drink-driving rules.

I, as a public representative, feel obliged to try and do my best to move this idea. All I’m asking from the Minister for Justice is that he consider this. I think it is a worthwhile idea.
A blanket rule for the country will not work. You can’t paint the whole country with the one brush and hope that everything works out.

Read: 2012 sets new record for fewest road deaths in Ireland >

Read: 13 per cent of people have travelled with over-the-limit driver >

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