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New RSA Chair told to 'name and shame' local authorities that fail to maintain road standards

Liz O’Donnell appeared before the Oireachtas Transport Committee today.

Liz O'Donnell
Liz O'Donnell
Image: Oireachtas TV

A FAMILIAR FACE was back in Leinster House today as Liz O’Donnell appeared before the Oireachtas Transport Committee.

The former junior minister is the chair-designate of the Road Safety Authority (RSA).

Fine Gael TD Patrick O’Donovan urged O’Donnell to ensure that the RSA plays a “naming and shaming role” in terms of publicly criticising local authorities that fail to maintian sufficient road standards.

The Limerick TD also asked O’Donnell what she plans to do about the “loopholes that you could drive a lorry through” in the GoSafe speeding system, whereby cases are being thrown out of court if individuals don’t receive their notices by registered post.

O’Donnell said that she couldn’t answer this particular question as she hasn’t “looked under the bonnet of the organisation yet”, but will examine the issue.

During the meeting, she also said that she fully supports the increase in penalty points from two to three for speeding and other offences, which was introduced earlier this year.

“It’s been proven that it’s a deterrent,” she said.

patrick o'd Patrick O'Donovan Source: Oireachtas TV

O’Donnell noted that the RSA must not develop a feeling of “laxity”, instead continuing to put forward its message encouraging all road users to exercise caution.

She described the fact that almost one in five drivers who were killed in 2013 were not wearing seatbelts as “extraordinary”.

The former politician noted that there was a “worrying” increase in the number of people who died on our roads last year (190). However, she said that there had been an overall reduction of 58% in road deaths since 1998, when the first road safety strategy was introduced. Some 458 people died on our roads that year.

The current road safety strategy aims to see a reduction in road fatalities to 124 per year or fewer by 2020. 166 people have died to date on our roads in 2014.

O’Donnell said that in the coming years the RSA will focus on a number of issues, including work-related vehicle safety, drug driving, fatigue and distractions such as mobile phones. A special emphasis will also be given to reducing the number of people who are seriously injured in road collisions.

The former TD noted that the Exchequer made €3.37million available to the RSA this year, but the organisation did not draw it down as it is now self-financing due to the revenue brought in by services such as the NCT, driver licensing and training for lorry drivers.

‘Big shoes to fill’

O’Donnell said that she was “very honoured” to have been chosen for the role and hopes she can “make a valuable contribution to a reduction in the number of fatalities on our roads”.

She praised the work of her predecessor Gay Byrne, describing his contribution to road safety in Ireland over the last eight years as “groundbreaking” and “passionate”.

Timmy Dooley Timmy Dooley Source: Oireachtas TV

Fianna Fáil’s Timmy Dooley said that O’Donnell would have the “full support” of the committee in her new role. He said that she had “big shoes to fill” but noted that he had every confidence in her appointment.

Dooley stated that O’Donnell, like Gay Byrne, had “never been one to side and allow things to happen against your will”.

He added that he hoped the Government would ensure there were enough resources in place to enforce the RSA’s strategy over the coming years.

Committee Chair John O’Mahony said that a transcript of the meeting would be sent to Transport Minsiter Paschal O’Donohoe, adding he saw no reason as to why O’Donnell would not be ratified as the new RSA Chair.

O’Donnell was first elected to the Dáil in 1992 as a Progressive Democrats TD for Dublin South. She held the position for 15 years until 2007, serving as Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs for five years from 1997 to 2002.

She has recently worked as a PR adviser, lecturer and opinion columnist for The Irish Independent.

Meet Gay Byrne’s replacement as chair of the Road Safety Authority

Here’s how many people gardaí caught speeding this morning

Meet Gay Byrne’s replacement as chair of the Road Safety Authority

Here’s how many people gardaí caught speeding this morning

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Órla Ryan

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