Seán Canney to vote against Shane Ross’s drink-driving Bill

Independent Alliance TD criticises the proposed legislation as ‘disproportionate’

Seán Canney, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran , Finian McGrath, John Halligan and Shane Ross at Government Buildings. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Seán Canney, Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran , Finian McGrath, John Halligan and Shane Ross at Government Buildings. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Independent Alliance deputy Seán Canney has confirmed he will vote against the drink-driving Bill sponsored by the group’s leader, Minister for Transport Shane Ross. The Bill proposes a mandatory driving ban for all motorists caught over the alcohol limit.

Mr Canney said on Monday he could not support the Bill as it was “disproportionate” in terms of the sanctions it imposes for consumption of lower levels of alcohol.

Mr Canney said he would not be seeking concessions, such as initiatives on rural transport, in exchange for the agreement. He said he opposed the Bill per se. “I am not happy with it. I think it is disproportionate. I will not be supporting it.”

The stance of the Galway East deputy has annoyed some of his colleagues within the alliance, all of whom will be supporting the Bill, which is the first piece of legislation forwarded by the group.

Minister of State John Halligan insisted on Monday Mr Canney should have raised his concerns over the proposals at previous meetings of the Independent Alliance and not aired them first on the public airwaves at the weekend.

Disagreed

Mr Halligan said he accepted every Independent TD has a right to speak their mind but disagreed with the way Mr Canney made his issues public.

He told The Irish Times: “If he is talking about a range of measures to deal with issues in rural Ireland, he should have discussed that with the Alliance and with Shane Ross before he went public demanding that. I do not accept that.”

Both other junior ministers, Finian McGrath and Kevin “Boxer” Moran, also said they supported the Bill. Mr Moran said he had met relatives of road traffic victims and that had convinced him of the merits of the Bill.

There is a slight possibility the Bill might not succeed in its passage through the Dáil. Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has raised the possibility of a free vote for backbench Fine Gael TDs and Senators on the Bill, though he said Ministers would have to support it. On Monday, a number indicated they had misgivings about the Bill or needed evidence to reassure them of its necessity.

Hildegarde Naughton and Pat Deering have both said they have some misgivings about a ban being imposed for driving with lower levels of alcohol.

“I am uneasy about the Bill as it is constructed,” said Mr Deering. “While I have the greatest of sympathy for victims of drink-driving, I am not quite convinced the change of rule will save any more lives,” he said.

Anomaly

Two other Fine Gael TDs, Peter Burke and Dara Murphy, said they wished to see the evidence underpinning the change in legislation.

The Bill ostensibly 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.