Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Support for Irish drink-drive permits is spreading

A challenge to drink-driving laws in the Republic of Ireland looks set to spread after a local politician in a second county said he would call for exemptions.

Independent Galway councillor Michael Fahy said he supported the call from Kerry councillor Danny Healy-Rae for drink-driving permits for rural dwellers, and would raise the matter at the next sitting of the policing committee in Galway.

Despite widespread criticism of the proposal, Mr Fahy said he did not believe the exemptions would lead to road deaths.

"We don't want to see people drunk, we're only talking about up to three pints. This would have to be monitored, maybe by the publican or through some sort of stamped card system."

Mr Healy-Rae's proposal has triggered outrage among anti-drink driving campaigners.

Christine Donnelly, whose 24-year-old son, Brendan, was killed by a drunk driver in October 2009 described it as "a slap in the face" to bereaved families.

"He has opened a dangerous can of worms and is playing with lives. How would he feel if a pensioner in his constituency killed someone or was injured?" she said.

Irish Road Safety Authority (RSA) chief Noel Brett accused Mr Healy-Rae -- who owns a bar in Kilgarvan -- of dragging the country back to a darker day, but the publican politician remained unrepentant despite a flood of abusive calls.

Mr Healy-Rae said he had also received messages of support since his motion won the backing of Kerry County Council on Monday.

"I've had calls from people who wouldn't leave their names, but everyone's entitled to their opinion and so am I," he said.

In October 2011 alcohol limits were reduced from 80mg per 100ml to 50mg/100ml, and to 20mg/100ml for "specified" drivers.

Mr Healy-Rae said: "That law was put in place and there was no debate. It's unfair that the same rule applies to someone driving a tractor as someone driving a coach or a lorry carrying a 30-ton load."

He also rejected figures from the RSA that the highest death toll from accidents was on regional roads.

"I'm talking about minor roads that no one was ever killed on and I don't see how someone having two or three drinks would lead to any loss of life," he said.

"These are good people, but someone else can drive with a cocktail of drugs in them and they're not being checked."

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