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Drink Driving Permit Meets Disapproval

by Martine O'Callaghan

January 31, 2013

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Donate When I think of Kerry, I think of rugged scenery and rugged rugby players, but that's just me. It seems, Munster men are far more sensitive souls than in my imaginings. Kerry councilmen (and yes, it is men in this case), so, fearful that, “older people are being isolated now at home, and a lot of them falling into depression," have, in order to reduce the isolation they might feel, and in a bid to reduce suicides, proposed issuing residents with permits to drive their vehicles whilst over Ireland's drink driving limit. Danny Healy-Rae, the councillor who proposed this legislation fears,
“All the wisdom and all the wit and all the culture that [older people] had, the music and the singing, that's all being lost to the younger generation because these older people might as well be living in Japan and Jerusalem because the younger generation don't see them at all any more.”
Healy-Rae's idea of issuing permits to elderly rurally dwelling residents so that they can get back from the pub of an evening has, unsurprisingly met with some criticism. Spokesperson for Alcohol Action Ireland, Conor Cullen, believes that the plan would be a step backwards were it approved. Between 2003 and 2007, Ireland saw the number of drink driving offences rise from 11,421 to 19,864 - an increase of 74%. Since 2008, deaths on Irish roads have fallen by 42% in part due to stricter and more rigorously enforced drink driving laws including random breath testing and mandatory breath tests for all drivers involved in road traffic accidents; yet, says Cullen,
“Almost one in three crash deaths in Ireland is alcohol-related. Even in small amounts, alcohol impairs driving ability - any amount of alcohol increases the risk of involvement in a fatal crash.”
The motion to put the "drink driving permit" before the transport minister, Leo Varadkar, was passed by Kerry's council by a slim margin.Michael Healy-Rae, Councillor Danny's Teachta Dála (member of parliament) brother who implored the minister to,
“ introduce legislation to allow gardai to issue permits to persons living in rural isolated areas to allow them to drive home from their nearest pub, after having two or three drinks, on little-used roads, driving at very low speeds.”
Varadkar, who dismissed the motion was nothing if not forthright in his condemnation of it:
“Given the unprecedented progress in road safety in recent years, I find it difficult to respond to a proposal that would undermine so much of that achievement.” He did not stop there. “I do understand and appreciate that isolation can certainly exacerbate existing mental-health problems but for the State to encourage the consumption of alcohol as a remedy for complex health issues, would be irresponsible in the extreme. Indeed, alcohol is a factor in a large number of suicides.”

by Martine O'Callaghan

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