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'If a pilot had two or three glasses to drink I'd still get on the plane' - Danny Healy Rae on drink driving limits

A new bill sponsored by Minister for Transport Shane Ross would see mandatory bans implemented for all drink drivers.

24/03/2016. General Election 2016. Pictured is Dan Danny Healy Rae Source: RollingNews.ie

KERRY INDEPENDENT TD Danny Healy Rae has argued passionately that a driver who has consumed “two or three glasses” of beer represents no danger to the public.

Speaking regarding Minister for Transport Shane Ross’ proposed Dáil bill (which would see an automatic driving ban for three months handed down to those caught drink-driving between the between 50-80 mg limit), Healy Rae spoke about the need for laxer laws in rural Ireland.

Speaking to Today with Pat Kenny on Newstalk radio, Healy Rae argued that “someone with three glasses drunk is not a danger on our roads, I firmly believe that”.

Healy Rae, together with his brother and fellow TD Michael, has long been an advocate for the position that tough drink-driving laws are a danger to rural lifestyles.

The first-time TD is himself a non-drinker.

“Many people I meet around the county I represent have the very same belief,” he said. “When they (the Department of Transport) can’t substantiate their figures, I don’t believe them.”

Ross’ bill would see a mandatory driving ban applied for anyone caught driving with more than the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit of 0.50 mg.

At present, a first-time offender with between 0.50 mg and 0.80 mg BAC is punished with penalty points rather than a ban.

File Photo File Photo The Government will introduce the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2017 in the Dáil today Source: Sam Boal

“I go into pubs as much as anyone else, but you have people who want to drink those three glasses of beer or Guinness, and it’s their only social outlet in rural ireland,” Healy Rae said.

People in urban areas like Dublin have several different means of transport for getting home.
The people I represent live three or four miles down a little road that they can only drive in 2nd or 3rd gear as the road determines the speed at which they must travel.
I’ve never heard of anyone being killed or of a fatal accident because of three glasses.

Asked would he get on a plane where the pilot had consumed alcohol, the Kerry TD replied in the affirmative.

“Firstly I have never condoned drunk driving at any time in the past. It doesn’t happen anymore, and if I saw someone not fit to drive I’d take them home myself.”

But I won’t believe until the day I die someone who drinks two or three glasses, or a pint-and-a-half, are a liability or danger on the road. And if a pilot had three glasses I’d get on the plane myself. I believe what I’m saying.

Speaking later on the same programme, Shane Ross himself said “it’s not a matter of numbers”.

“If you can save people’s lives by doing this… then let’s do it. Let’s do it even if it’s only five or six a year, that’s still five or six people dying,” he said.

The contentious issue has divided many TDs in the Dáil, with a urban versus rural split clearly evident. Due to this fact, in February, TheJournal.ie reported that Ross would be seeking a free vote on the issue.

Today Cabinet endorsed the Bill, and it is understood that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has told his Cabinet ministers, including super junior ministers, they will be bound to vote in favour of the Bill.

This will result in some ministers such as Communications Minister Denis Naughten (who has expressed reservations about the Bill) having to tow the line.

It’s believed the Fine Gael parliamentary party will now decide whether there should be a free vote for Fine Gael TDs on the drink driving bill.

The matter is due to be decided upon in the autumn.

with additional reporting by Christina Finn 

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