Belfast Telegraph

Road Traffic Bill passes Dail despite TD’s ‘unforgivable filibuster’

Michael Healy-Rae was accused of rambling, verbal diarrhoea and filibustering the bill out of the Dail during Friday’s debate.

The Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill has passed all stages in the Dail with 75 TDs voting in favour and eight TDs voting against.

The bill, proposed by Transport Minister Shane Ross, would impose stricter penalties on drink drivers, including automatic disqualification for all drink-drivers caught with more than 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, and would make it an offence for car owners to allow a learner drive to use their car unaccompanied.

Member of the Rural Independent group resisting the bill, Michael Healy-Rae, was accused of rambling, verbal diarrhoea and filibustering the bill out of the Dail during Friday’s debate.

Mr Healy-Rae talked for over an hour about what he called adverse effects on rural communities.

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Minister for Transport Shane Ross with Colette Griffin (left), who lost her daughter Sarah Richardson in 2012, Julie Patton, who lost her son Shane in 2012, and Margaret Kavanagh (right), who lost her daughter Janice in 1991, outside Leinster House in Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

He cited busy parents, waiting times for driving tests and insurance premiums as roadblocks to the effectiveness of the proposed legislation.

He added that the new laws could create mental health issues in rural Ireland.

Opposing TDs became mired in a shouting match on three different occasions while the Ceann Comhairle Sean O Fearghail struggled each time to regain the floor and accused those involved of bringing the Dail into disrepute.

Margaret Kavanagh, 60, whose 10 year-old daughter was killed by a drunk driver in 1991, called Mr Healy-Rae’s behaviour in the Dail despicable.

“Mr Healy-Rae should walk in our shoes for a day, they’re not thinking about other people, they’re only thinking about themselves.

“He’s talking about people’s mental health, what about our mental health? Those who have lost their children.

The Rural Independent group have been very irresponsible and acted completely and utterly unacceptably, delaying this legislation was very dangerous Transport Minister Shane Ross

“I don’t want his sympathy, he’s talking about the concerns of the vintners of Kerry when people’s lives are on the line.

“I just want to keep children safe like I thought I could keep my daughter safe,” she said, adding Friday’s bill was a step in the right direction in making Ireland’s roads safer.

Mr Ross said the filibuster by the Rural Independents group was absolutely unforgivable and accused members of playing politics, adding that the delays could have cost lives.

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The bill was proposed by Transport Minister Shane Ross (James Connolly/PA)

“We’re absolutely delighted with today’s result and I’m sure this will greatly reduce the number of drunk drivers on Ireland’s roads.

“The Rural Independent group have been very irresponsible and acted completely and utterly unacceptably, delaying this legislation was very dangerous.”

After 16 hours of debate, the bill will now move to the Seanad for passage.

When the Bill passed in the Dail, Danny Healy-Rae was heard shouting: “This is a sad day for rural Ireland.”

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