Danny Healy-Rae says he'd "go in the plane" after pilot had three glasses of beer

Cabinet has agreed to Shane Ross' tough new drink driving measures

Danny Healy-Rae says he'd "go in the plane" after pilot had three glasses of beer

Photo: RollingNews.ie

An opponent of moves to increase penalties for drink driving says he would be happy to get into a plane being flown by someone who had three glasses of beer.

Danny Healy-Rae's comments come as the Cabinet meets to discuss the prospect of giving TDs a free vote on the issue.

Shane Ross insists his zero-tolerance proposals for anyone driving over the limit will save lives.

Under the new rules, the current limit will stay the same - at 50 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.

Currently, anyone caught over the 50mg limit faces a €200 fine and three penalty points, with an automatic disqualification for anyone exceeding a higher 80mg limit (the minimum penalties increase further for higher recorded levels).

However, the new bill proposes a mandatory disqualification for anyone caught drink driving.

Free vote

Cabinet has agreed to the policy and all 15 members will vote in favour of it.

Fine Gael however, has yet to decide whether its backbenchers will be given a free vote on the issue - meaning the bills passage through the Oireachtas is not guaranteed.

Fianna Fáil meanwhile has said it will vote against the bill - calling for increased garda numbers to tackle drink driving.

Three glasses

Deputy Healy-Rae insists he has never seen anyone whose ability to drive is affected by three glasses of beer.

Speaking on the Pat Kenny Show, the Kerry TD argued: "I never condone drunk driving. At any time in the past, and it doesn't happen anymore, [that I saw] someone who wasn't fit to drive... I took them home myself.

"Until the day I die, I don't believe that anyone that has had just two or three glasses [of beer] - a pint and a half - that they're a liability or a danger on the road."

Deputy Healy-Rae stressed he would have no issue with a pilot who had drunk that amount: "I'd go in the plane myself. I believe what I am saying."

Asked why a ride-sharing or designated driver system cannot work in rural areas, he noted: "In rural Ireland, we're talking about people living on their own, [...] Many of them where the nearest neighbour is two or three miles away, who doesn't go to the pub. They are so isolated.

"What I'm saying to the minister, and indeed what I'm saying to the rural deputies who are representing the same kind of people that I'm representing, right around the country... I'm calling on those deputies to come out and vote against this bill, because they should take into account what the people out there are saying."

Defending the legislation, Minister Ross told Pat: "For me, it's not a matter of numbers. If you can save people's lives by doing this [...] let's do it. Let's do it even if it's only five or six a year - that's five or six people dying.

"We're not changing the limit at all... we're changing the penalty [...] We're making a judgement - and it's a very, very scientifically backed judgement - that those people driving over 50 [mg] should not be driving."