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Penalty point reforms, river dredging and no 'daft' ideas about wolves: Rural Independents list some of their wants

The Independent TDs met with Micheál Martin today.

Independent rural TDs Mattie McGrath Carol Nolan and Michael Collins
Independent rural TDs Mattie McGrath Carol Nolan and Michael Collins
Image: Mattie McGrath

REFORMS TO THE penalty point system, the dredging of the River Shannon, as well as an end of talk about the re-introduction of wolves to Ireland. 

These are just some of the asks from the Rural Independent group who met with Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin this morning.

The group, which is made up of Mattie McGrath, Michael Healy-Rae, Danny Healy-Rae Carol Nolan, Michael Collins, and Richard O’Donoghue, had a number of specific items on their want list if they are to consider going into government with any party. 

Newly elected Independent TD Richard O’Donoghue raised concerns about the penalty points system, stating that drivers are getting three points on their licences for “very minor offences”. He agreed that the more serious the offence the more points a driver should get, but said urgent reform is needed. 

Mattie McGrath hit out against an idea floated last year to double the penalty points for motorists caught speeding on bank holiday weekends.

McGrath told TheJournal.ie that maybe it was “kite-flying” but that such a measure would impact the farmers, shopkeepers and nurses that work on bank holiday weekends. 

“Rural Ireland continues to open on a bank holiday,” he said. 

“It’s gas stuff,” added McGrath.

Bring back wolves 

The Tipperary TD also criticised some of Green Party’s ideas in the run up to the election, stating that the idea to re-introduce wolves to rural Ireland is a “daft” policy. 

Wolves were once common in Ireland, but the animal was hunted to extinction almost 250 years ago.

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan last year called for the reintroduction of the animal to help rewild part of the countryside, but that idea was rejected by Culture Minister Josepha Madigan who said the government has no plans to do so.

“The Greens are one-trick ponies,” said McGrath, who added that when the Green Party were last in government it was a “costly experience”.

He said every party cares about protecting the environment, but criticised the headlines the Green Party had generated by stating that wolves should be re-introduced to rural Ireland, as well as Eamon Ryan’s comments about people using cars in rural Ireland.

In an article in the Irish Times newspaper Ryan said the government should do more to encourage car-pooling, stating:

We don’t all need to own a car. Most of our cars are sitting in a car park for 95 per cent of the time.

Ryan took issue with the headline on the article, which was later changed, stating that the Green Party does not stand for restricting car ownership.

McGrath said today that people in rural Ireland need a car to get around, but said those in urban areas and cities don’t understand that.

The rural Independents are also calling for the dredging of the River Shannon, which they said would stop flooding in the midlands. They also called for one agency to be set up to deal with flooding in Ireland.

Drink-driving laws

Michael Collins and Danny Healy Rae both criticised Ireland’s updated drink-driving laws.

The Road Traffic Bill which passed in 2018 imposed stricter penalties on drink drivers with an automatic disqualification for drivers on their first offence of driving while over the permitted 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.

The new law also made it an offence for car owners to allow a learner drive their car unaccompanied.

Collins and Healy Rae said the law has destroyed the fabric of rural Ireland.

McGrath said the outcry from those in rural Ireland fell on deaf ears in Leinster House, adding that there was no new or additional taxi or bus services rolled out to help those in the country get to and from the pub.

If the Rural Independents go into government, McGrath said they will demand that people in rural Ireland are given “their rightful place” in society.

He said those living outside the cities have been “downtrodden” for too long by the previous government.

The group said it is their priority to bring an end to the political posturing so that major public concerns around health and housing can be addressed.

They added that the public do not have time to wait while the main political parties dance around the issue of getting down to business and bringing about a platform for significant policy change.

The meeting with Martin was described as constructive today, with the group of independent TDs stating they are willing to play their part.

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