Fine Gael Minister ‘would rather fight election’ than pass Ross road bill

Measures removing Garda discretion to allow motorists present licence at station are stalled

It is understood  Taoiseach Leo Varadkar met Minister for Transport Shane Ross before the Cabinet meeting and brokered a deal. Photograph: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin.

It is understood Taoiseach Leo Varadkar met Minister for Transport Shane Ross before the Cabinet meeting and brokered a deal. Photograph: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin.

 

A Fine Gael Minister has told his colleagues he would rather have an election than pass controversial road safety measures proposed by Minister for Transport Shane Ross.

Minister for Rural Affairs Michael Ring asked Mr Ross to scrap the most contentious of his latest proposals, and the Dublin Rathdown Independent Alliance TD was said to have been roundly criticised at the weekly Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

At the Cabinet meeting, Mr Ring is understood to have said that the Government - and Mr Ross in particular - were seen to be attacking rural Ireland. At the meeting of Fine Gael ministers before the Cabinet meeting, Mr Ross was said to have received even stronger criticism in his absence.

It was at this meeting that Mr Ring was said to have made his most strident comments. “Michael Ring said he’d rather fight an election than pass this Bill,” said one source.

As first reported by The Irish Times last week, Mr Ross proposed to remove discretion from gardaí to allow motorists present at a station with their licence if they are without it when stopped.

At present, if a motorist is stopped by a member of An Garda Síochána, an individual Garda has the discretion to ask the person concerned to present at a station with their licence by a set period of time.

Mr Ross also brought forward long promised moves to introduce graduated fines for speeding.

One Minister said there was widespread anger in Fine Gael at the latest moves, adding that they would not have made it through Cabinet.

It is understood that Taoiseach Leo Varadkar met with Mr Ross before the Cabinet meeting and brokered a deal which Mr Ross announced to his ministerial colleagues.

It will see the two most controversial elements - removing the Garda discretion and gradated speed fines - referred to a Cabinet sub committee, while the general scheme of the remainder of the Road Traffic Bill was approved.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan was also one of those to have raised objections, expressing concern about how the new systems may be operated by An Garda Síochána.

Under the graduated fines ban, drivers travelling up to 10 kilometres above the speed limit would receive between three and five penalty points and an €80 fine.

Drivers detecting travelling at speeds between 10 and 20 kilometres above the limit would receive between four and six points and €150 fine.

Those travelling more than 30km/h above the limit will no longer be dealt with under the penalty points system and instead will face prosecution for dangerous driving.

At meetings between government staff last week, it was initially discussed that anyone who did not have their driving licences to hand would get an €80 fine and two penalty points.

Those close to Mr Ross then said that the number of penalty points for such an offence was yet to be determined, and then said that it was not proposed that the offence would not result in automatic penalty points but just an €80 fine.