Six Government Ministers against tougher drink driving law

Confusion reigns over whether Ministers of State will be bound by Cabinet decision

The Bill, brought forward by Minister for Transport Shane Ross, will still proceed to the Dáil in the autumn. Photograph: Barbara Lindberg

The Bill, brought forward by Minister for Transport Shane Ross, will still proceed to the Dáil in the autumn. Photograph: Barbara Lindberg

 

Proposals to automatically ban anyone found to be over the legal drink-driving limit from the roads were opposed by six Ministers at yesterday’s Cabinet meeting.

The Bill, brought forward by Minister for Transport Shane Ross, will still proceed to the Dáil in the autumn despite the reservations of senior figures, including the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, about its potential impact.

Ministers Heather Humphreys, Michael Ring, Denis Naughten, Joe McHugh and Michael Creed also expressed concerns about the proposals.

They cited the lack of rural transport, social inclusion issues and the potential impact on Garda resources and the courts system as reasons. Some also fear this will lead to an attempt to lower the blood alcohol limit closer to zero.

At present, drivers detected with 51 to 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood in their system receive penalty points rather than a ban for their first offence. Mr Ross wants a mandatory driving ban to be introduced.

Rural transport

The Cabinet agreed to review rural transport schemes and to request a report from Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan on whether current rules are being adequately enforced.

Amid unhappiness in the Government backbenches over the proposal, a decision on whether to allow a free vote on the measure was deferred until September.

A Government spokesman said all senior Ministers would be bound by the Cabinet’s decision but he could not clarify whether this extended to Ministers of State. The programme for government states all office holders are bound by a Cabinet decision.

Government sources said Mr Varadkar had made that point yesterday but later indicated there may be some space for manoeuvre for Ministers of State.

Several Ministers of State including Kevin ’Boxer’ Moran, Seán Kyne, Brendan Griffin and Patrick O’Donovan have expressed concern about the measures.

Mr Varadkar confirmed he will ask Fine Gael members to support the Bill but will allow for the parliamentary party to decide whether there should be a free vote extended to TDs and Senators.