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Friday 27 January 2023 Dublin: 5°C
Scrreengrab via Oireachtas TV Transport Minister Leo Varadkar speaking in the Dáil today
# Roads
Government pledges to address 'serious gap in the law' on hit-and-run incidents
Transport Minister Leo Varadkar has said the government will accept the broad principle of a bill to crackdown on hit-and-run drivers.

THE GOVERNMENT HAS said it will partly accept a Fianna Fáil proposal to address a “significant gap” in the law on dealing with hit-and-run road incidents in Ireland.

The Road Traffic Bill 2013, introduced by Timmy Dooley as part of Fianna Fáil’s private members’ time today, would make it an indictable offence for anyone to leave the scene of an accident resulting in injury with punishment of up to 10 years in jail and a fine of up to €5,000.

Speaking for the government, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said that the current penalty of six months in prison and a fine of up to €2,000 “is not sufficient in addressing hit-and-run incidents where a death or serious injury has occurred”.

Varadkar said that the government endorsed the broad principle as there is a “serious gap” in the current law. He pledged that his officials would work with Dooley to produce an amendment to the current Road Traffic Bill at committee or report stage.

The Fianna Fáil bill also proposes to increase the period to find and test alleged offenders for intoxicant substances such as drugs or alcohol from three hours to 24 hours after the incident.

In making his argument, Dooley raised the case of Shane O’Farrell, a 23-year-old student who was killed by a hit-and-run driver near his home in Carrickmackross in August 2011.

“The family never got justice for Shane because by the time the driver was found, the period to test him for drugs had lapsed,” Dooley said.

However, Varadkar said the government would not be accepting this part of the bill as it is not possible to accurately take samples more than three hours after an incident and “calculate back” a person’s level of intoxication at the time of the incident.

He said that although there are laws in other country that allow for samples to be taken more than three hours after an incident, it would be difficult to implement them in Ireland on a practical level.

Varadkar said that suspects could claim they were drinking between the period after the incident and the time the sample was taken, adding: “The testing of late samples is not reliable.”

Independent TD Finian McGrath urged the Minister to look at the Shane O’Farrell case and “find out what’s going on there”.

He added: “There are real families out there, there are real victims hurting.”

Friday sitting: Dáil debates bill to deal with ‘crisis in Irish towns’