Belfast Telegraph

Monday 29 December 2014

Drink-drive permits plan condemned

Leo Varadkar has rubbished attempts by an Irish county council to legalise drink-driving for people in rural areas
Leo Varadkar has rubbished attempts by an Irish county council to legalise drink-driving for people in rural areas

Irish transport minister Leo Varadkar has rubbished attempts by a county council to legalise drink-driving for people in rural areas.

Mr Varadkar said country roads are already the most dangerous in Ireland and granting some people a permit to flout the law sends the wrong message internationally.

"Most of the accidents that are happening are happening in rural areas and on country roads," Mr Varadkar said.

"While rural isolation is a real problem, the solution to it is not to hand out drink-driving permits. Obviously it's something we very much disagree with."

Kerry County Council sparked outrage among road safety chiefs after it voted in favour of a motion to exempt people in isolated areas from national drink-driving laws.

Councillor Danny Healy-Rae - a publican who proposed the move - argued that allowing people to drive while under the influence could save lives.

He said it would prevent depression and suicide among people living in remote areas by allowing them to drive to and from their nearest pub.

The five council members who voted in favour - Mr Healy-Rae, his son Johnny Healy-Rae, Michael Cahill, Bobby O'Connell and Michael O'Shea - are all publicans, former publicans or connected to the pub trade.

Twelve councillors were absent from the chamber when the move was passed, while seven other councillors abstained from the vote.

The council will now ask Justice Minister Alan Shatter to issue licences that would allow people living in remote countryside to drive home from their nearest pub while over the legal limit - provided they drive slowly.

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