By Conor Kane
Independent TD Mattie McGrath has accused the Minister for Transport Shane Ross of going “off the deep end in terms of a detachment from rural life” over the proposed punishments for unaccompanied learner drivers.
Mr McGrath called on the minister to immediately suspend plans to increase the severity of penalties for such drivers, and those who allow them use their vehicles.
“This proposal is utterly disproportionate and will generate massive amounts of resentment in rural Ireland in particular.”
His comments came after the Cabinet agreed to amend the Road Traffic Act, allowing for increased fines and the confiscation of vehicles, including farm and commercial vehicles. The owners of vehicles which are found with an unaccompanied driver behind the wheel face prosecution under the new provisions.
“If Minister Ross is seriously suggesting a new regime whereby critical farm yard vehicles can be confiscated and the farmer can be jailed then he has truly gone off the deep end in terms of a detachment from rural life,” he said.
“How does the Minister intend to put this bizarre proposal into practice? It is completely unworkable and has the potential to ruin farm and working families that are barely surviving as it is.”
The Tipperary independent said that, for many rural TDs, “this smacks of yet another hare-brained Cabinet initiative that reflects the absolute and increasing rural-urban divide at the heart of this Government. Telling farmers that they can potentially be jailed or that they will have their machinery seized for allowing a son or daughter drive a tractor across the yard is incredible nonsense.”
McGrath wants the Government to find “a more proportionate and effective response to the critical and important issue of road safety that does not involve the excessive penalisation of one distinct element of the community, such as farmers and self-employed people”.
The Government’s move comes just over two years after Co Cork mother and daughter Geraldine Clancy (58) and Louise Clancy (22) were killed in a crash involving an unaccompanied learner driver.
Noel Clancy, the husband of Geraldine and father of Louise, has called for more restrictions on unaccompanied learner drivers and people who allow them use their vehicles