By Juno McEnroe and Joel Slattery
Permits for drink driving in rural areas should be agreed to ease rural isolation and keep pubs open, according to Kerry TD Danny Healy-Rae, who used his leaders questions in the Dáil to complain about strict drink-driving rules yesterday.
To help isolated residents in some areas, special permits should be granted which would allow motorists to have two to three pints and then drive home legally on a designated stretch of road, said the Independent TD, who is also a publican.
He accused the Government of inflicting “damage and mayhem” on rural Ireland with road-traffic and drink-driving laws.
“Many cities around the world have tried to replicate the Irish country pub but now people all around Kerry are afraid to go out and are like rabbits trapped in a burrow,” he said.
He suggested the Government provide a permit for people travelling only on rural class 3 roads or cul de sacs so they can have their “two pints and drive home”.
“If they stray beyond those roads, then nail them, but the Government should give them a chance to live because all work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy,” said Mr Healy-Rae.
Tánaiste Simon Coveney said “that is not only irresponsible but an insult to so many families who continue to mourn the deaths of people who have been killed by people who were drinking and driving”.
Road safety group founder Susan Grey said: “It is an insult. This is about saving lives. It is sad for a public representative to say things to get extra votes.”
Irish Rural Link have also contradicted the claims made by the Kerry TD.
He claimed that driving on rural roads after drinking alcohol is safer than driving in a town or city.
CEO of Irish Rural link Seamus Boland says this is not the case
"Irish Rural Link have been saying all along and have said it (for) four or five years - drinking and driving is not on.
"Rural roads at the moment are not safe. Most death occur on rural roads, it you look at the national statistics, that's the case," he added.