Ireland drinking and driving plan meets with opposition

by | Jan 24, 2013 | News

Councillors in County Kerry, Ireland are proposing drinking and driving be legal for people in more rural areas. Photo by  Mark Fischer, courtesy Flickr.

Councillors in County Kerry, Ireland are proposing drinking and driving be legal for people in more rural areas. Photo by Mark Fischer, courtesy Flickr.


By: Sara Yonis

A proposed law allowing drinking and driving in rural Ireland is getting reaction around the world, including in Toronto.

“Any amount of alcohol impairs your ability to drive.”

That is the message that Connor Cullen, a spokesperson from Alcohol Action Ireland, wanted people to know after news broke that councillors from Ireland’s County Kerry passed a motion allowing some residents to drink and drive.

“There is no safe level of alcohol when it comes to driving,” Cullen told Humber News in an interview from Ireland on Thursday.

The motion was put forth by Danny Healy-Rae, a councillor from the region Killarney, in west Ireland and specified that drivers in rural areas should be allowed to have a higher alcohol level in their systems when driving.

Five council members backed the motion, while three others, including the mayor, Terry O’Brien, opposed the idea.

The mayor’s reason for not wanting to back the bill painted a picture of the proposal not mentioned by Healy-Rae.

“The councillor who actually moved this owns a pub,” O’Brien told the Toronto Star. “And people who voted with him also own pubs.”

Matt Evans, coordinator for the Ontario Students Against Impaired Driving told Humber News rural areas shouldn’t be the exception to the rules.

“The same laws apply no matter, whether you’re up north or whether you’re down south,” he said.

Evans pointed out that drinking and driving continues to be a problem everywhere, but the majority of accidents happen in rural areas.

“People think, ‘Oh you’re out in the country it’s not going to happen.’ That’s actually where it is happening with teens for example,” he said. Evans said people tend to assume its cities where the most accidents happen.

“It just proves that, you know, whether you’re on the back road or in the city, if you’re impaired your likelihood of crashing is huge.”

Concerned motion could be setback for Ireland

“Over the last five years from 2008 to now, fatalities on our road are down 42 per cent. And Dublin itself, Dublin city is now the safest city in Europe in terms of motoring,” he said. “We’ve really made great strides in this area so it’s disappointing really to see a motion like this go before a council.”

In an interview with the Irish news website The Journal, Healy-Rae’s said the reasoning for allowing rural residents to drink more was because of rural isolation. He said he believed people who live in the rural area were becoming increasingly depressed without having the social contact they would gain from going to a pub.

Cullen said he understands the issues of rural isolation but doesn’t believe it should be used as an excuse for driving drunk. She said this would be a setback for the country.

“I suppose we’re sympathetic to people who are suffering from, who may be suffering from rural isolation but we don’t feel that by putting their own lives at risk and the lives of others, people in the community at risk is going to benefit them” said Cullen.