No free vote on new drink-drive laws for Fine Gael TDs, Senators

Party discusses proposals to automatically ban drivers caught over legal limit of alcohol

Minister for Transport Shane Ross has proposed an automatic ban for drivers caught over the legal limit of alcohol. Photograph: iStock

Minister for Transport Shane Ross has proposed an automatic ban for drivers caught over the legal limit of alcohol. Photograph: iStock

 

Fine Gael TDs and Senators will not have a free vote on controversial new drink driving legislation.

The party met this evening in private to discuss proposals by Minister for Transport Shane Ross to automatically ban drivers caught over the legal limit of alcohol.

It is understood Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is eager for Fine Gael to remain united on the measures and avoid a free vote.

A number of Fine Gael TDs including Hildegarde Naughton, Peter Burke, Pat Deering, and Dara Murphy have spoken against the measures and sought not to have a whip imposed on them.

Chair of the Fine Gael parliamentary party Martin Heydon met with Mr Ross in recent weeks to discuss concerns raised by individual Fine Gael TDs and Senators.

Mr Heydon also sought progress on a number of rural transport measures requested by members to ensure there are no consequences for rural pubs and in terms of social isolation.

Mr Ross assured Mr Heydon he was eager to develop proposals to ensure rural Ireland is not neglected and has met with the insurance industry and the vintners in this regard.

Specific measures

The Minister has also supplied the Fine Gael chair with correspondence to outline his commitment in this area and has requested suggestions from the party on specific measures it wants to enforce.

Mr Ross did make it clear the measures are not conditional on each other and the publication of proposals would not coincide with the Bill.

The Bill sets out to correct an “anomaly” in the 2010 Act. Until now, those detected with between 50mg to 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood did not get a disqualification, but received three penalty points and a fine of €200.

The Ross Bill proposes to remove the penalty point option in these cases. All drivers detected driving over the limit will receive a disqualification of three months’ duration if the level of alcohol is between 50mg and 80mg.

Fianna Fáil will not support the Bill. It believes the current measures should be strengthened and stronger penalties of five penalty points and a €500 fine should be enforced.

Mr Ross’s colleague in the Independent Alliance, Sean Canney, also confirmed he is to vote against the legislation. The Bill is due before the Dáil in the coming weeks.

When it first was discussed at Cabinet, seven Ministers spoke against it but a whip was imposed on Ministers and Ministers of State.