Free votes and issues of conscience


Sir, – I’m baffled by the Government’s attitude to free votes. It appears willing to allow a free vote on the issue of drink-driving, although the usual rationale behind relaxing of the party whips is that a given proposal has no serious consequences for the economy or the general wellbeing of society (“Cabinet divided over drink-driving ban proposal”, July 12th).

Drink-driving hardly falls into that category. Nor can it be termed an issue of conscience for individual TDs since it is a proven fact that drink-driving threatens life and limb.

By contrast, Maureen O’Sullivan’s Bill to ban hare coursing last year ticked all the boxes required for removal of the whip. But four political parties applied the whip to defeat the proposal.

I have campaigned against this blood sport for years, and I cannot fathom why the parties won’t allow a free vote on it. The sky wouldn’t fall, the economy wouldn’t spiral into the depths of fiscal hell, and life would go on as normal the following day.

In Britain, all votes on Bills to ban hare coursing were free. They failed, over and over, but eventually one got through, and because it was a free vote, it carried all the more weight in a free and democratic society.

With drink-driving, alas, we cannot afford to wait. – Yours, etc,



Co Kilkenny.