Some FG Ministers register concern as new penalty points scheme is approved

Changes unlikely to be passed through the Oireachtas before next year’s general election

Michael Ring: claimed to  his colleagues that Shane Ross is disliked in rural Ireland

Michael Ring: claimed to his colleagues that Shane Ross is disliked in rural Ireland

 

A Fine Gael Minister told his colleagues that Shane Ross is disliked in rural Ireland, and an Independent Minister accused Fine Gael of trying to stab the Dublin Rathdown TD in the back as a new penalty points scheme for motorists was finally approved on Tuesday.

The Minister for Transport’s proposals to change how penalty points for speeding are applied passed through Cabinet, although some Fine Gael Ministers registered their concerns.

Although the Government says the Bill containing graduated speeding penalties is on the priority drafting list, the measures are unlikely to be passed through the Oireachtas before next year’s general election.

Minister for Rural Affairs Michael Ring was said to be most vocal in his concerns at Cabinet, in what was a widely described as a calm discussion.

Paul Kehoe, the Minister of State for Defence, and the Government Chief Whip Sean Kyne also had some reservations.

Earlier, at the weekly pre-Cabinet meeting of Fine Gael Ministers, Mr Ring was blunter in his assessment, telling colleagues that while he had nothing personal against Mr Ross, he was not liked in rural Ireland. “He was pretty worked up about it all,” one Fine Gael source said.

Public transport

Mr Ring is also said to have claimed that those in rural Ireland who get their licence taken off them were at a disadvantage to those in urban areas who could rely on public transport.

However, suggestions of an urban-rural divide were rejected by some of his Fine Gael ministerial colleagues.

At the full Cabinet meeting, Finian McGrath, the Minister of State for Disability Issues, defended Mr Ross, and criticised Fine Gael Ministers who were briefing against him.

He suggested some wanted to stab Mr Ross “in the back” by briefing that they intended to stop the new plans. However, the exchanges at the Cabinet meeting itself were said to be relatively relaxed.

Minister for Children Katherine Zappone also backed Mr Ross. Mr Ross later said there “was no revolt” but a “constructive” meeting.

At present a driver who breaks the speed limit is subject to a fine of €80 and three penalty points.

The new rules would see drivers found to have exceeded the speed limit by less than 10km/h have two penalty points endorsed on their licence.

Exceeding the speed limit between 10km/h and 20km/h will attract three penalty points, while driving at 20-30 km/h over the limit will attract four penalty points.

A motorist found travelling 30km/h above the speed limit will go straight to court and face prosecution under a new standalone offence, with the prospect of a fine of €2,000 and seven penalty points.

Sources said Mr Kyne generally agreed with the proposals, but his main concern centred on those caught driving at 30km/h over the limit. The Galway West TD also drew a distinction between being pulled over for speeding in the early hours of the morning and in the middle of the day.

Three experts

A new appeals mechanism will be put in place to allow so-called “questionable speed limits” to be reviewed.

Under this process if someone feels that a speed limit on a certain road is too low or too high, a review of the speed limit guidelines will be undertaken by a panel of three experts and potentially changed.

This new system is set to be in place by late spring, and will be established before the penalty points legislation passes.

An automatic €80 fine for anyone who does not have their licence to hand when stopped by a garda is also being considered, but will be introduced as a separate measure.

Fine Gael sources insisted gardaí will still have the discretion to allow drivers to present their licences at a Garda station afterwards.