Ross to pursue legislation to automatically disqualify drink drivers

Ross move opposed by Fianna Fáil and some in Fine Gael and Independent Alliance

Shane Ross: he said the evidence demonstrated a need for stricter legislation, and confirmed he would pursue separate measures to name and shame drink drivers

Shane Ross: he said the evidence demonstrated a need for stricter legislation, and confirmed he would pursue separate measures to name and shame drink drivers

 

Minister for Transport Shane Ross intends to pursue legislation to automatically disqualify drink drivers despite strong opposition.

Mr Ross said the country was losing the fight against drink driving, and further legislative measures were required.

It seems to me that Fianna Fáil are being held captive by the vintners’ lobby

The Minister has published legislation to introduce an automatic ban on all drivers found under the influence, but it has been met with resistance from Fianna Fáil and from some members of Fine Gael and the Independent Alliance.

Speaking to The Irish Times, Mr Ross said he would push ahead with the measures, and urged those opposing the Bill to rethink.

“It seems to me that Fianna Fáil are being held captive by the vintners’ lobby. I would ask them to look at the evidence more carefully before making an irresponsible, irreversible decision.”

Current law says that drivers caught with an alcohol limit of between 50mg and 80mg per 100ml will receive three penalty points and a €200 fine if it is their first offence. The legislative change was introduced by former minister for transport Noel Dempsey in 2009.

Changes proposed by the Minister for Transport would see even one small alcoholic drink place a driver over the limit. File photograph: Philip Toscano/PA Wire
Changes proposed by the Minister for Transport would see even one small alcoholic drink place a driver over the limit. File photograph: Philip Toscano/PA Wire

The general scheme of a new Bill has proposed to end that loophole and ensure every driver caught under the influence receives the same penalty.

Fianna Fáil transport spokesman Robert Troy has said his party would not support such measures.

I think if there is a free vote it will pass because the majority of people would do anything to prevent drink driving

Independent Alliance TDs Sean Canney and Kevin “Boxer” Moran are also resisting them, as are a number of Fine Gael TDs.

Current rules

Those opposing the Bill say enforcement of current rules should be a priority rather than introducing new legislation.

It had been expected that Mr Ross would abandon the plans in response to the opposition. However he confirmed to The Irish Times he would “step up to the plate and pursue the legislation”.

The Garda and road safety agencies are warning motorists not to drink and drive, especially over the St Patrick’s Day weekend. Photograph: John Giles/PA
The Garda and road safety agencies are warning motorists not to drink and drive, especially over the St Patrick’s Day weekend. Photograph: John Giles/PA

Mr Ross said he believed a free vote should be facilitated in the Dáil and Seanad to ensure the Bill’s passage. “I think if there is a free vote it will pass because the majority of people would do anything to prevent drink driving.”

The Minister was speaking as the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and gardaí released research showing nearly one third of people killed on the roads in 2014 had alcohol in their system. The results, which come from closed coroner reports, do not include people killed by drink drivers or by drink drivers who survived accidents.

Over 1,500 people have been arrested since the beginning of this year for driving under the influence of alcohol.

Name and shame

Mr Ross said the evidence demonstrated a need for stricter legislation, and confirmed he would pursue separate measures to name and shame drink drivers.

He said it also highlighted the unhealthy relationship with alcohol which is spreading on to the roads. “It is further evidence, if it were needed, that action must be taken to stop people getting behind the wheel of a car or getting on to a motorcycle having consumed alcohol. ”

The RSA will now to write to every TD seeking their support for the proposed legislation.

A recent Behaviour and Attitudes poll showed 91 per cent of adults supported such a measure.