Irish council in Kerry bid to relax drink-drive limit

Man drinking pint of beer (file) New lower drink drive limits were introduced in Ireland in 2011

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Councillors in south-west Ireland have backed a plan to relax the drink-drive limits for some isolated constituents.

The motion backed by Kerry county councillors would allow police to issue permits overriding the legal limit.

Councillor Danny Healy-Rae, who proposed the motion, said it would apply to "older people" who "are being isolated now at home, and a lot of them falling into depression".

But Kerry Mayor Terry O'Brien said the motion did not "make any sense".

The motion was passed on Monday afternoon by five votes to three, with seven abstentions - though according to news website, 12 councillors were absent for the vote which took place "towards the end of a long meeting".

A number of the councillors who approved the measure are reportedly themselves pub owners - but Mr Healy-Rae denied that this had influenced the vote.

The county of Kerry, hugging the rugged and windy south-west coast of Ireland, is known for its mountains, its rural scenic beauty and its winding country lanes.


Mr Healy-Rae told The Journal the people he thought could apply for the permits "are living in isolated rural areas where there's no public transport of any kind, and they end up at home looking at the four walls, night in and night out, because they don't want to take the risk of losing their licence."

Start Quote

Those in rural areas who may be suffering from isolation will not benefit from putting their lives and the lives of the other members of their community at risk by drinking and driving”

End Quote Conor Cullen Alcohol Action Ireland

"I see the merit in having a stricter rule of law for when there's a massive volume of traffic and where there's busy roads with massive speed. But on the roads I'm talking about, you couldn't do any more than 20 or 30 miles per hour [30-50km/h] and it's not a big deal. I don't see any big issue with it."

Mr Healy-Rae said the current drink-driving rules were forcing an older generation to stay at home.

"All the wisdom and all the wit and all the culture that they had, the music and the singing, that's all being lost to the younger generation because these older people might as well be living in Japan and Jerusalem because the younger generation don't see them at all any more.

The council will now call on the justice department to implement the change.

But the move was condemned by the mayor of Kerry, who told Irish broadcaster RTE: "It is incredibly dangerous. I don't know how anybody can be allowed to say: 'You've had two pints, so you're justified to drive'.

"I don't know what expertise one would have to look at someone in a bar to give them a permit to drive a car after any alcohol."

Alcohol-suicide 'link'

Conor Cullen of Alcohol Action Ireland told the BBC: "Almost one in three crash deaths in Ireland is alcohol-related. Even in small amounts, alcohol impairs driving ability - any amount of alcohol increases the risk of involvement in a fatal crash."

He said tougher measures against drink-driving in Ireland over recent years had seen road deaths fall by 42% between 2008 and 2012.

"Those in rural areas who may be suffering from isolation will not benefit from putting their lives and the lives of the other members of their community at risk by drinking and driving," Mr Cullen said.

"Also, it should be noted that the link between alcohol use and suicide has been well established and drinking alcohol will exacerbate not alleviate any mental health difficulties that a person may be struggling with, such as depression or anxiety."

In 2011, the maximum blood-alcohol limit in Ireland was reduced from 80mg per 100ml of blood - the same as the UK legal limit, one of the highest in the world - to 50mg for most drivers.

While the level of alcohol in the blood depends on the driver, for many the new law means a single drink could push them over the limit.

Learner, novice and professional drivers in Ireland are now limited to a maximum of 20mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    One for the Ditch. I have lived in western Ireland and it amazed me that they could enforce the law in some areas. However the publicans providing transport is the best answer.
    It puts me in mind of the one where Murphy is stopped by the parish priest whilst riding his donkey "where are you going Murphy?" "to the pub" he replied "why is your wife walking behind?" "she hasn't got a donkey"

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    I love the Irish, they have a very healthy disregard for the health & safety prats, the government prats and anyone who dares to interfere with their enjoyment of life. Could I afford it I would move to Ireland because they have the life/work balance about right, they are lovely people and they treat the law-makers with the contempt they deserve. Good on you, I wish the Brits had the same spirit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    I feel depressed so I go to the pub to get drunk "in company". I can then take my car, have a crash and kill people.
    Drink to drive, drive to kill. It's all right.
    Who voted such nonsense? Surely a bunch of drunken maybe depressed people?

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    It claims to be a modern EU state, but as we saw from the financial crisis, the ROI is by and large a cliquey theifdom run by an old boys network of mafia type gangsters. Stuff like this, make Ireland appear parochial and playing up to its own self-parody. Drink driving is unacceptable.

  • Comment number 231.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    This is not representative of how the majority of people think in County Kerry-if this issue was not so serious you could cry laughing-the sooner central government makes good on its promise to cut locally elected politicians the better-these guys are an embarrassment to Kerry-but the sad fact this sham might just give them a few votes -what a waste of tax payers cash

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    Well if they crash when over the limit at least they will have company in hospital.

    Of course perhaps the locals could take turns so one could act as driver who does not drink whilst the others do. maybe the pub could even provide a minibus for a small fee or even free.

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    This is a particularly bad Irish joke.
    Isn't it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    Ireland relies on tourism, particularly the yank $.

    They need to keep the pubs open because boarded up buildings don't fit with the medieval, quaint picture in tourists imagination.

    Money first, Public safety second, as usual.

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    As long as they don't smoke in the pub that will be O.K.

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    Absolute rubbish, how anyone can say, "I live in an isolated place so it's O/K" is the biggest load of flannel ever. a drunk behind the wheel of a car where ever they are is a menace to every one. I used to visit Lanes-borough in Ireland, and saw drunken drivers in the lanes above the town, they are not only a danger, to other drivers, but also people who walk to the pub along the unlit lanes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    "10,000 reported road casualties happened when a driver was over the legal alcohol limit representing 5% of all road casualties" ''

    Which means 95% of accidents were caused by people NOT drinking.

    I conclude that drink driving is 95% safer that not drink driving.

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    There is no way the EU will allow this. Same as they wouldn't allow the Irish to vote no in their referendum.

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    And that councillor with "on the roads I'm talking about, you couldn't do any more than 20 or 30 miles per hour [30-50km/h] and it's not a big deal" seems to forget that the roads in his area are fairly close to the main route to Cork City where speed limits are between 80 and 100 km/h. A lot of his customers would use that road while going to and returning from his pub.

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    April 1st come early this year?

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    Why doesn't Councillor Danny Healy-Rae, who's a pub owner by the way as well as a councillor, go the extra country mile to plan and test a local transport system to and from the pub?

    It's much less effort to just to get the well intented rules relaxed isn't it.
    Making the effort, doing the transport planning, testing the idea, all that would take HIS time, HIS effort, etc.
    Asking too much?

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    Pub putting on a minibus would make sense.

    However, if it wasn't for the poor innocent meeting them head on I'd say let Darwinism prevail.

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    The alcohol limit in Ireland is set too low. The danger on the roads is from those who drink many pints and then drive, it is not from those who have two pints over the course of an evening.

    This is a rare bit of sense from government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    @197.Damian re "All my relatives in Ireland are absolutly paranoid about the drink drive limits...Me thinks it was taken a wee bit too far" - not if it has saved someone's son or daughter, and continues to save lives.
    Lives are worth a lot more than warm ale and might craic, you know.

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    I always thought the drink/drive laws were and still are relaxed,and non-existent
    if you win The Heineken Cup!!!!!!


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