People now being breathalysed going to and from Mass, Dáil told

Danny Healy-Rae claims Government wants to close down churches as well as post offices and other services

Danny Healy-Rae   claimed that “the social fabric of rural Ireland has been blown to smithereens”. File photograph: PA

Danny Healy-Rae claimed that “the social fabric of rural Ireland has been blown to smithereens”. File photograph: PA

 

People are being breathalysed for drink-driving going to and from Mass because the law is being enforced so strictly, Independent TD Danny Healy-Rae has claimed.

The Kerry TD, who vehemently opposed legislation imposing an automatic ban for a first drink-driving offence, accused the Government of attempting to close churches as well as post offices and most services for rural towns and villages.

But Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told him drink driving laws were aimed at saving lives and there was a higher risk of road deaths in rural Ireland.

At one time 600 to 700 people died on the roads each year but that had now been reduced to under 200, which was still 200 too many lives lost, he said.

“That’s the purpose of the road traffic legislation. It’s not to discommode people - it’s not to make their lives harder to lead. It’s to make the roads safer,” Mr Varadkar added.

Mr Healy-Rae claimed that “the social fabric of rural Ireland has been blown to smithereens”.

People were angry because they were isolated from company and conversation because of the legislation, which meant they could no longer enjoy just two pints of beer.

“People are being checked going to mass, they’re being checked coming from mass. And I’m not blaming the gardaí, or indeed I’m not blaming individual superintendents, because it’s across different divisions and it’s across county boundaries,” Mr Healy Rae said.

Checkpoints

He asked if the Taoiseach, the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan or Minister for Transport Shane Ross had ordered the checkpoints, because they wanted the stricter law.

“Is it the way ye want to close the churches now as well as the post offices. Ye’ve mostly everything else closed. I suppose ye want to close the churches as well now in rural Ireland,” Mr Healy Rae said.

He said bars were deserted and many were now closing and so were nearby businesses.

He asked where the promised rural link buses were, the ones that were to be provided with the implementation of the changes to the law, which he said had been announced during the summer.

Many parts of Dublin and other urban areas had a wide variety of transport options available. But people were left isolated in parts of south and east Kerry included Glencar, Beaufort, Waterville and Black Valley as well as Currow, Scartaglen and Gneeveguilla.

The Taoiseach said checkpoints were not a matter for government but for senior gardaí and they were also set up in urban areas and were not limited to rural locations.

But checkpoints aimed to ensure people did not drive with drink or drugs taken.

Gardaí were also checking for tax and insurance, and to catch or deter criminals, Mr Varadkar said.