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 75.

    To Trendy@72.

    As I said there can be no justification for it whatsoever. As for the PC doogooders I can assure you I,m no lover of them either. This is just plain common sense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    Think its a great idea. Everyone should have to sit a "driving after drink test" Then it could be printed on your D/L, so it might read allowed one small sherry, or allowed two pints, depending how you done on your test!

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    "Maybe there are better ways to solve this issue?"

    Having pub business and culture not destroyed by pointless and intrusive legislation, so pubs can survive on fewer customers or get more customers and so are more plentiful? Doing less should be easy, but it goes against the flow of increasing government control and not a chance

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    Peter@58 The PC and do-gooders have really stopped your brain from thinking. This case is about a road that probably doesn't have more than 2 or 3 vehicles on daily. I'm suggesting a higher alcohol level allowed not unlimited drunkeness. When I got so bad I would sleep in my car on the pub carpark. Your advert for your Volvo seems to have got past the moderators, you should be banned for good LOL

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    I didn't realise until now that putting a Irish joke like this on HYS would't attract the oh-so PC moderators.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    This policy could be policed by issuing a permit that will allow the driver to have up to 80 mg/100 mL, provided it is carried on the driver along with a driver's licence. Permit can be issued by the local gardai who also retain a list of those with the permit to prevent frauding the system. This would allow the old man in a rural area to have his two Sunday pints and potter down the road at 20mph

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    This is ridiculous, alcohol worsens the effects of deepression for a start! This is sending the wrong message its basically saying that as the roads are quiet then it's ok to have a drink and out not only put yourself but others at risk, people can then think well its fine in Ireland so as the roads are quiet..
    Can the Irish not socialise without alcohol im pretty sure they serve soft drinks?

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    I agree with everyone on here that this law is bogus, but I also understand the argument that has been made about older people being involved in society with younger generations. I don't agree with the solution, but I sympathize with the problem. Maybe there are better ways to solve this issue? How about a volunteer DD program for the elderly that still want to be a part of that culture?

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    It's never going to happen. Pure publicity stunt from Michael Healey-Rae and co. All the council can now do is send a letter to Dept of Justice. Alan Shatter's forthright response will be unprintable.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    As an Irish person, this kind of parish politics is embarassing. This councillor (who is a publican) is from a political dynasty who look after themselves....his father got grants to fix the pot holes in Kerry and the other son who owns a plant hire business hired out the equipment to the contractors.
    The government will never accept or approve this thankfully!

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Since when was drinking alcohol seen as part of the solution to treat depression? Plain bizarre...

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    Is it April 1st already???

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    It is of course naive to suggest that old guys are stuck at home just because of the drink driving limit. I am sure the high price of a pint in the pub compared to buying cans from the supermarket and the fact that they can't puff on their pipe also has something to do with it. Unfortunately if the politicians can't make them live a long time they will at least make it feel like a long time.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    "...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"

    I'm confused, why not go out and drink a 'cuppa tae'...

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Could they not offer a room for the night? people used to stay in Inns years ago.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    Alcohol slows your reactions, but if you're sensible you just drive more carefully. You don't just turn into a maniac after two pints. I've seen people (in other countries) driving carefully after five pints, and people in the UK hurrying around without paying attention after no alcohol, and I'd sooner share a road with the former.

    And I think older people are more likely to be careful, too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    "Have you ever sat in a pub drinking overpriced soft drinks?"

    That's likely how he spends his life. Eventually we will all be ground down to his didactic, pedantic value system and the suicide rate will skyrocket

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    To Presario@32 and Trendy @53.

    Because you did not have an accident whilst drink driving was sheer luck. I would like you argue your pathetic case to the family of someone who had died because of drink driving. You really need to take a hard look at yourselves there can be no justification for it whatsoever. I am totally disgusted by your posts and your behavior

  • Comment number 57.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    Just checked the calendar - no, not 1 April yet.

    Funny kind of law they must have in Ireland if councillors have the power to disapply it.


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