FF TDs ‘disappointed’ party is not opposing drink-driving legislation

Party says measures are ‘disproportionate’ but will not stand in the way of Bill passing

Minister for Transport Shane Ross: Fianna Fáil TDs Bobby Aylward, Kevin O’Keeffe and Margaret Murphy O’Mahony have criticised Fianna Fáil’s decision to support the passage of the drink-driving Bill. Photograph: Alan Betson

Minister for Transport Shane Ross: Fianna Fáil TDs Bobby Aylward, Kevin O’Keeffe and Margaret Murphy O’Mahony have criticised Fianna Fáil’s decision to support the passage of the drink-driving Bill. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

A number of Fianna Fáil TDs have criticised the party’s decision not to oppose controversial legislation to clamp down on drink drivers.

The party is against proposals from Minister for Transport Shane Ross to introduce a mandatory driving ban for a first drink-driving offence if a motorist has a blood alcohol level of above 50 milligrams/100 millilitres.

Currently, first-time offenders receive a fine and penalty points.

Mr Ross has also now expanded the legislation to penalise vehicle owners who allow a learner driver out on the road on their own and will allow gardaí to seize a vehicle driven by an unaccompanied learner driver.

While the party is opposed to the drink-driving measures, it is unlikely to oppose the passage of the final Bill.

Fianna Fáil TDs Bobby Aylward, Kevin O’Keeffe and Margaret Murphy O’Mahony criticised this decision at the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting on Tuesday.

Mr Aylward also questioned whether he would lose the party whip if he voted against the final Bill.

Strong words

Speaking to The Irish Times, the Carlow-Kilkenny TD said there were strong words exchanged at the meeting.

“Members [TDs and Senators] were sent back to their constituencies and told [party] members the party was opposing the Bill, and now we are supporting it. I did not say I was going to resign. I just asked if the whip would apply and was told there was a whip and we must abide by the whip.”

Mr Aylward was supported by a number of his colleagues, including Cork East TD Kevin O’Keeffe and Cork South West TD Margaret Murphy O’Mahony.

It is understood Ms O’Mahony told the parliamentary party meeting she was “extremely disappointed” that there had been no consultation with party members on the decision. This was supported by Kerry TD John Brassil, who said this was a blow to rural Ireland.

Not changed

Speaking to The Irish Times, Mr O’Keeffe said his position on the proposition has not changed and has been known to everyone for the past 18 months.

Mr O’Keeffe said the legislation had become a cocktail of a series of measures and believed the party should register its protest by abstaining, he added.

The party’s spokesman on transport Robert Troy insisted the party remains fundamentally opposed to the drink-driving measure.

However, he stressed they were supportive of the aspects of the Bill that dealt with learner drivers and therefore would not oppose the legislation passing.

Mr Troy said: “We believe Mr Ross is introducing disproportionate penalties. That remains our position.”