Latest: Road safety campaigner calls on Finian McGrath to resign over drink-driving check criticisms

Latest: Road safety campaigner calls on Finian McGrath to resign over drink-driving check criticisms

Update 10.50am: Road safety campaigner Aisling Reid of PARC has said that Independent Alliance Minister of State Finian McGrath should resign.

“It is disgraceful what he said. It was shocking. Withdrawing his statement is not enough, he should resign,” she told RTÉ Radio’s Today with Sean O’Rourke show.

On Sunday Mr McGrath had claimed gardaí are carrying out "over the top" drink-driving checks because they oppose new road safety laws.

In an interview with a Sunday newspaper he said he had gotten complaints from parents about being breathalysed on the way to Mass and to pick up their children from school.

Gardaí had become politicised and were "making a point" by blaming Transport Minister Shane Ross when they stopped motorists. Mr McGrath said that Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin TDs had told him they had heard reports of this.

He also told the Sunday Independent he wanted Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to "de-politicise" An Garda Síochána.

On Sunday afternoon, he told The Irish Times that he had been approached by members of the public with concerns over how the new laws were being enforced, and called on Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to address the issue publicly.

He said he had been told of “unnecessary checkpoints going up, people making comments about the Minister for Transport – these need to be clarified”.

“What I’m trying to say is I think the whole situation needs to be clarified by the Garda Commissioner, and I’m sure he’ll do that,” he said.

Latest: Road safety campaigner calls on Finian McGrath to resign over drink-driving check criticisms

However, in a statement emailed later on Sunday afternoon, he said that his comments in the Sunday Independent “were wrong and I am happy to withdraw my comments”.

“I am also happy to state that I have full confidence in An Garda Síochána and that I was wrong to suggest there was any element of politicising within the force over the new drink driving regulations.”

Ms Reid said that the new drink driving laws were important and necessary to address the issue of drink driving. “The police are doing their job. Their role is to ensure that no one is drink driving.”

On the same radio programme Fianna Fáil’s Justice spokesperson Jim O’Callaghan described Mr McGrath’s comments as “foolish” and he called on him to apologise to An Garda Siochana.

It is extremely serious to say that the Guards are involved in a political campaign. What he should be talking about is his own portfolio.

“Finian is looking for publicity. He is seeking to explain the unpopularity of Independent Alliance Ministers.”

Former Garda Chief Superintendent John O’Brien said he can understand public scepticism about garda check points for drink driving because of past issues with inflated figures, but he said check points are important.

He said that enforcement needs to be done with a degree of sensitivity and that everything has to be done to improve road safety.

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment Richard Bruton has defended his Cabinet colleague.

"He is a very passionate person. I do have full confidence in him. He has a particular way of working," Mr Bruton told RTE radio's Today with Sean O'Rourke show.

"He was man enough to admit that he was wrong and to express confidence in the Gardai and that he was wrong to say this.

"What he said requires an apology. All of us in our game could make a slip then have to come along and withdraw."

Earlier: Ministers criticising drink-driving laws 'putting people's lives at risk'

Update 9.44am: A member of the Irish Road Victims Association says criticising gardaí for being 'over the top' enforcing drink drive laws puts lives at risk.

Latest: Road safety campaigner calls on Finian McGrath to resign over drink-driving check criticisms

It comes after Minister Finian McGrath withdrew comments he made in an interview, where he accused gardaí of political policing.

He had called on Garda Commissioner Drew Harris to take action to "de-politicise" the force.

Leo Leigho's daughter Marissa was killed in a hit and run incident. He says the comments send out mixed messages.

"To criticise the gardaí for enforcing a law that's there to protect people's lives, to protect their children, to protect the lives of the innocent is just absolutely ridiculous.

For ministers to say such things is putting people's lives at risk because it sounds like they're condoning people drinking and driving, that the law is unfair.

"That's sending out mixed messages to people."

Digital Desk

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