Not clever

"When the drink is in, that's it" - drink driving is still going on in Ireland's rural areas

“Irish people live on risks – they don’t think before they act.”

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AS THE COUNTRY reels from the victim impact statement of Gillian Treacy, mother of four-year-old Ciaran who was killed by a drunk driver in Co Laois last year, it seems that a drink-driving culture is still very much prevalent in Ireland’s rural communities.

Gillian lost Ciaran to a crash involving drunk-driver Finbarr O’Rourke on 17 April 2014. O’Rourke had drunk between eight and ten pints of cider before driving away.

In response to the Portlaoise verdict Newstalk’s Henry McKean interviewed a number of people in the border towns of Ardee and Drogheda in Co Louth to see what their experience of driving under the influence might be.

Niall MacCartney, a barman at Tenanty’s pub in Ardee says that below-cost alcohol sales in supermarkets is just one factor that influences our culture.

When the drink is in

“There is drink-driving and you’re not going to put a stop to it. And you can’t take the car keys off them or they’ll go for you. And there’s not enough gardaí to stop it,” he said.

That’s the Irish for you, they’re always going to drink. The old people that go out to a country pub for the last 30-40 years, having a few pints and driving home, you’ll struggle to change it.
You might say that there’s young children on the roads, won’t they think of them, but when the drink’s in, that’s it.

A local farmer said that he used to drink four or five pints on a night in the pub and then drive home, but that he stopped five or six years ago for fear of losing his licence.

“Well there weren’t as many checkpoints back in the day as there is now,” he said.

If I lost my licence I’d have to pay someone to drive me and I can’t afford that.

“Drink driving shouldn’t happen on any road, it’s not just your life you’re endangering after all,” he added.

A number of residents of Drogheda told McKean of the different experiences they had had with drink-driving.

“I drove with alcohol in me once, probably six or seven pints,” said one man. “And I woke up in such fear of what I might have done the next day that I never did it again.”

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“Irish people live on risks don’t they, they don’t think before they act,” said another resident.

I know people in this town who drive into town, drink, sleep in their cars, and then drive home the next day when they’re still under the influence. And these are people who need to be able to drive for their livelihoods.
Irish people always think ‘It won’t be me’ or ‘I won’t get caught’.

Local independent councillor and bar owner Jim Tenanty says it’s not simply a matter of taking car keys off customers.

“We did that on one occasion and the client had them back within an hour – he said it was his rights,” he said.

Trade here is way down with drink-driving laws though. We’re lucky to have a weekend trade now, we used to be full every day.
There’s lots of taxis in Dublin, but that’s not the case rurally. And drink driving does happen when there isn’t enough transport in a rural area.

One young mother said that she was in “floods of tears” reading the story of Ciaran Treacy.

“It shouldn’t happen full stop. Knowing that it was deliberate just made it worse,” she said.

Too late

A Liverpudlian man visiting Ardee lost his licence after being caught drink-driving in South Africa. Admitting that he would have once drank ten pints and driven, he thinks scarce Garda resources are to blame.

“It might not make sense economically but if you had guards in pub car parks it wouldn’t happen,” he said.

People think they can have three or four drinks and be alright, but you can’t.
By the time you’ve done the damage it’s too late.

Read: Mother of boy (4) killed by drunk driver says, “We will always wonder how life would have been”

Read: Gerry Adams: The Taoiseach is a spoofer who is making an eejit of himself

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