Government TD speaks out against new drink driving plan

Independent Alliance TD Sean Canney says the plan is a step too far

Government TD speaks out against new drink driving plan

File photo | Independent Alliance TDs Shane Ross and Sean Canney, 25-11-2017. Image: Leah Farrell / RollingNews

A Government TD has warned that the Minister for Transport’s proposed new drink driving laws need to be ‘rural proofed.’

The Transport Minister, Shane Ross has been the driving force behind the Road Traffic Bill – which would see the introduction of an automatic driving ban for first-time offenders detected at the lowest limit.

Currently drivers caught with alcohol concentrations of between 50mg and 80mg face a fine and penalty points but no ban – provided it is their first offence.

The proposal has been welcomed by road safety activists and the RSA – however a number of rural TDs have warned it could lead to further isolation for those in remote locations where there is little public transport.

Speaking in the Dáil this afternoon, Galway TD Sean Canney voiced his opposition to his Independent Alliance colleague’s plan:

“I think this bill goes too far,” he said. “I think we need to look at it; we need to balance it up and we also need to have more discussion about how this bill will affect rural Ireland.

“How we can see it being rural proofed and how we can make sure that we don’t isolate more rural people.”

The Bill is currently on its ways through the houses of the Oireachtas – and Minister Ross has previously said it is “very likely” it will be passed by the Dáil.

He said plans to alleviate the effect of his bill on rural Ireland are “in their infancy” but insisted he is taking the issue of social isolation very seriously.

Deputy Canney said the automatic driving ban goes a step too far:

“I do believe that the laws we have, at the moment, are sufficient,” he said.

“Maybe the penalties applicable to 50mg to 80mg should be looked at but I think we [can] inadvertently create laws which can be counter-productive and I do believe this one would be.”

RSA chief executive Moyagh Murdock has previously warned that driving with a blood alcohol level of between 50mg and 100mg “increases the risk of a fatal crash by a factor of five” and claimed that the plan would have a “strong deterrent effect on would-be drink drivers.”

However, Independent TD Michael Healy Rae has questioned Minister Ross’ statistics and in the Dáil this afternoon he noted they are five years old – dating from 2008 to 2012.

“The Minister has failed to prove that one and a half pints ever caused a fatality,” he said.

“I sympathise with all the families who have lost loved ones due to drink-driving.  

“I do not condone and never will condone drink-driving but I support the right of people right around rural Ireland to have a pint and a half and not lose their licence because of that. 

“If one loses one's licence in rural Ireland, one is stranded forever.”

He claimed Minister Ross had forced Fine Gael to accept the bill as the price for his support of the minority-led Government.

With reporting from Sean Defoe ...