Canney breaks ranks with Independent Alliance to oppose road traffic Bill
Six TDs fail to halt Ross legislation that would introduce mandatory bans for category of first drink-driving offence
Danny Healy-Rae TD: “You have not shown that people were the cause of fatalities or indeed the cause of accidents by driving with that amount of alcohol”. File photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
Independent Alliance TD Seán Canney supported the rural group of TDs against his own political grouping in a failed bid to stop the controversial Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill progressing.
Mr Canney was one of just six TDs who stood to oppose a section of the Bill but because there were fewer than 10 TDs the vote could not be taken.
The Galway West TD had been in conflict with his group colleagues when they voted to retain Kevin ‘Boxer’ Moran as Minister of State for the OPW and not rotate it again to Mr Canney who held the role for the first year of the Fine Gael-led Coalition.
The Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill, currently before the Dáil, introduces 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 with between 50 mg and 80 mg/100 ml receive a fine and penalty points.
The legislation will also 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.
Opposing the road traffic legislation, Independent TD Danny Healy-Rae claimed anyone who drank a pint and a half pint of alcohol never caused a road fatality.
During the debate Mr Healy-Rae said Minister for Transport Shane Ross had told an Oireachtas committee 36 people were killed in the four years between 2008 and 2012 in road incidents involving alcohol.
But he said Mr Ross did not individualise the cases and “prove it was not someone walking along the footpath after having a few pints and stepping in front of a driver who had no drink at all”.
Mr Healy-Rae said the Minister stated that data protection legislation would not allow him to identify the cases.
“No one in the 50 mg per 100 ml to 80 mg per 100 ml (blood alcohol) bracket caused a fatality.”
The Kerry-based TD accused the Minister for Transport of “scapegoating the people in Kerry and in rural areas” and told Mr Ross he was just “trying to make a name for yourself with this Bill”.
Mr Healy-Rae said “you have not shown that people were the cause of fatalities or indeed the cause of accidents by driving with that amount of alcohol”.
“I certainly don’t condone drunk driving but a pint and a half pint never made anybody drunk and that’s the truth Minister,” he told Mr Ross.
“There’s a lot of talking about a hard border and a soft border but the facts are that above in the Six Counties it’s 80 mg. There’s no 50 and you’re not put off the road until it’s 80.
“In France it’s 80 and if you’re caught under that you’re just fined. You’re not put off the road at all, at all. Or there are no penalty points.”
Mr Healy-Rae claimed there was so much lip service in Leinster House about what was being done for rural Ireland.
“Everything that’s being done is hurting the people of rural Ireland. Why don’t you just leave them alone,” he said.
He also criticised the main party in Government and said he could not understand how Fine Gael gave the Minister the power to introduce this legislation.
Mr Healy-Rae said “I know a man of 93 years of age. He has his pint and a half pint, the very most two pints. He was never over the 80 mg level.”
In the past discretion was allow “but the minute this Bill will be enacted he’ll be at home for the rest of his days. That’s what you want to do to the likes of that man,” he told Mr Ross.
The Killarney TD also said that “in rural Ireland you can’t travel without a car” and there were students doing their teacher training or apprenticeships who would not be able to attend college.
“The people in rural Ireland don’t break the law,” he insisted.
“When you bring this law forward they’ll only have one thing to do and that’s to stay at home.”