Irish council in Kerry bid to relax drink-drive limit
- 22 January 2013
- From the section Europe
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 TheJournal.ie 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."
"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."
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.