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'Nobody caused a fatality by having three glasses of Guinness drank' - Healy Rae argues against new drink-driving laws

Shane Ross rejected claims that the plan would negatively impact rural Ireland.

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

TRANSPORT MINISTER SHANE Ross has been forced to defend his plans to automatically ban some drink drivers in an Oireachtas committee.

Speaking at the Oireachtas Transport Committee today, Ross accused vintners of cynical lobbying against his new plan, which would ban those found with blood alcohol contents of between 50mg and 80mg per 100ml. Currently those people receive a fine and three penalty points.

Ross rejected claims that the plan would negatively impact rural Ireland.

“I know that a number of commentators, and some Deputies, have expressed concerns that this Bill would somehow damage life in rural Ireland.

“I would encourage them to stop and think about this. By far the highest number of alcohol-related road deaths – 81% – occurs in rural Ireland. No part of the country would benefit more in terms of lives saved.

I want to save lives in rural Ireland.

“Support for my proposal in rural areas was, at 93%, a little higher than that in urban areas at 89%. The notion that this is an urban/rural issue is simply wrong. ”

Ross said the Vintners Federation of Ireland had “lobbied often in quite a cynical matter” against the plan.

Guinness

Kerry TD Danny Healy-Rae, however, said that the plan was an attack on rural life.

He said that many issues lead to road deaths, from road quality to upkeep of hedging.

“Our roads aren’t adequate for pedestrians, first off. People aren’t allowed to cut their bushes, so they (pedestrians) are walking halfways out on the road.

“And then you have the case where the fella is on his own side of the road after a pint or two or three glasses and some lunatic comes down the road on his own side and runs into him.

“It’s the fella with the pint and they half pint who is blamed.”

He said that “three glasses” in a pub was the “only option” many rural people had and said that losing their licence would be a “serious issue”.

Nobody caused a fatality by having three glasses of Guinness drank.

He said he didn’t believe that figures Ross presented were correct.

“I have a good grasp of what happens around my neck of the woods. If you’re going to do this, you’ll isolate people further.”

Blind spot

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However, Ross hit back, accusing the Kerryman of having a “blind spot” on the issue. He accepted that the issue of road deaths went beyond

“There is speed on our roads, you’re right. There are holes in our roads, you’re right. There are dangerous black spots on our roads, you’re right.

“But there’s also alcohol on our roads.

“And alcohol is dangerous and it impairs. That is not an opinion, it’s a fact. It’s a scientifically proven fact.

The blind spot you’ve got deputy Healy-Rae is you don’t accept alcohol of any sort impairs driving. That’s a fact.
You cannot contest scientific fact.

Ross said that the measure was not “an attack on rural Ireland”, but rather an attempt to save lives in rural Ireland.

He repeatedly pointed to Road Safety Authority figures that showed alcohol was a factor in one third of fatal crashes between 2008 and 2012.

He said he wanted to see rural communities organise transport to and from pubs, but said he could not “give them a blanket three points”.

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