Council passes drink-drive motion
A motion by the Kerry councillor Danny Healy-Rae calling for special derogation for rural drivers, including small tractor drivers, to allow them to have two or three drinks was narrowly passed at a meeting of Kerry County Council yesterday.
The motion called for legislation to be introduced which would allow rural gardaí to issue permits to allow rural dwellers drive from their local pub "after having two or three drinks on little used roads driving on very low speeds."
Mr Healy-Rae, a publican, was supported by a number of other publicans at the meeting. However, they insisted their support was not for “vested interests” but because of genuine concern about elderly rural dwellers and their experience of the changes which had overcome rural dwellers.
The strict drink driving laws were leading to isolation and in some cases this was a factor in suicide, Mr Healy-Rae claimed. Living in rural Ireland was vastly different to life in urban areas. It was unfair to impose the same restrictions on fellows with small tractors and jeeps as on commercial lorry drivers. The limit for tractor drivers was lower than for cars on on a par with 50-seater buses.
“These vehicles wouldn’t be exceeding 30 km/h on third class tertiary roads, cul-de-sacs that end up as a dead end,” Mr Healy-Rae said. There was no reason a fellow could not drive his “small tractor ” to collect his messages, have a few drinks and go away home, he said. Gardaí - if any rural garda were to be left – would manage the permits, he said.
Fine Gael councillor Bobby O’Connell strongly supported the motion . Rural isolation was “big problem”, he said. "People are afraid to go out.”
Fianna Fáil councillor and publican Michael O’Shea concurred, as did Michael Cahill, a Rossbeigh publican and Independent councillor.
However, Labour's Gillian Wharton Slattery strongly objected to the linking of suicide with not being able to drink. Alcohol and drugs were huge factors in depression which in turn contributed to suicide, she said.
Most councillors abstained and did not vote.
The motion was narrowly passed. Senior council officials are now to write to the Department of Justice seeking the introduction of rural permits.