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TDs oppose cut to drink driving limit

Wednesday, 11th January, 2017 1:01am

A Galway TD has criticised Transport Minister Shane Ross’ proposal to reduce the drink-driving limit, saying he is opposed to any such cuts.

Minister Ross is considering reducing the blood alcohol limit from 50mg to 20mg. However, the proposal has already been met with opposition.

Galway Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice slammed the idea, saying he doesn’t believe alcohol limits should be reduced further.

“Facts are that anybody that has had any drink-related accident was way over the limits we have and I don’t think they need any more changing. We appear to be always relating accidents and death to seatbelts, drink and young drivers but in my view the big elephant in the room is the state of our roads but of course that costs money so, hush, say nothing if you’re government or the RSA.” 

He also criticised Minister Ross’ proposal to name and shame offenders, saying it could affect the perpetrator’s mental health.

A number of other local TDs have come out against the idea, with many stating current laws should be more strictly enforced.

Galway East TD Sean Canney (Independent) said drink driving limits at present are very low, however driving under the influence of alcohol “cannot be tolerated”.

There were 188 road deaths last year, a rise of 26 on 2015.

Minister Canney said drink driving is not the only factor in road accidents with other contributions including driving under the influence of drugs, use of mobile phones and texting whilst driving.

“Speed and road conditions are also factors that need to be reviewed and enforcement of existing laws should be a priority,” he added.

Similarly, Fine Gael’s Hildegarde Naughton believes it would be more effective to enforce the current rules than introduce more.

Minister Ross’ proposition has also been met with scepticism by Galway West TD Catherine Connolly (Independent) who said that while she welcomes his commitment to taking road safety seriously, she remained “cynical” of a solution that “rushes to introduce more legislation without a proper analysis of the current failure to enforce existing legislation”.

She blamed a “serious depletion” of the Garda Traffic Corps, citing fewer checkpoints and less visibility of Gardaí on the roads as a reason for the rise in the number of road accidents.

Fine Gael’s Sean Kyne echoed Deputy Connolly’s thoughts, saying there needs to be “greater enforcement” of existing laws.

He said he would support a “slight reduction” in the current limit, however he believes a zero-tolerance policy could have negative impacts.

“While it is without question that one should not drive while consuming alcohol in larger quantities, reducing the limit to zero would impact on situations such as consuming a drink with a meal or the morning after a night socialising where a small amount of alcohol might still be present. There are also other issues such as consuming food with alcohol among the ingredients or some medications.”

However, Roscommon-Galway TD Eugene Murphy (Fianna Fáil) said “zero tolerance” is the way forward.

“You can’t take even one drink anymore and go out and drive. I think it’s at that stage now that if you want to go out and have a few drinks you either get a taxi or you have a designated driver because I just don’t think you can take a drink anymore and drive. It’s as simple as that.”

His party colleague and Galway East TD Anne Rabbitte has similar views, saying she “wouldn’t be against the proposal in principle”. However, she said she would like to see various medical experts appear before the Oireachtas Transport Committee to discuss the issue thoroughly and provide evidence based analysis.

“If it was the case that there was a strong argument for the reduction of the alcohol limit, we would need to ensure that measures are introduced in tandem with any reduction to ensure that rural Ireland is not discriminated against.”

All Galway TDs were contacted by the Galway Independent for comment. The following TDs did not respond at time of going to print: Noel Grealish (Independent), Éamon O Cuív (Fianna Fáil), Denis Naughten (Independent) and Ciaran Cannon (Fine Gael).

 

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