Shane Ross blasts TDs on road bill

Transport Minister Shane Ross has accused rural TDs who tried to block a drink-driving bill of needlessly risking the lives of their own constituents after it emerged two in every three road deaths this year have occurred in rural areas.

He hit out at opposition TDs who opposed his plan, warning dozens of people died in drink-fuelled crashes while the bill was delayed for six months.

The Road Safety Authority’s (RSA) mid-year report, launched yesterday, showed 78 people have died on our roads, including 51 who died in rural areas. The worst- affected were Co Cork with 11 deaths, Co Tipperary with seven, and counties Clare and Kilkenny with five each.

The figures also confirmed that 4,274 people were found to be drink-driving in the first six months of this year, a rate Garda Chief Superintendent Finbarr Murphy said shows that the “drink driving culture” is still alive.

Asked about the opposition to his drink-driving limits bill, which is set to be passed by the Seanad this week after a series of Dáil delays last week, Mr Ross said those opposing the bill are costing lives.

“I think they should read the figures and certainly vow never to do anything like that again,” Mr Ross said when asked about the filibustering attempts by Independent TDs Michael and Danny Healy Rae and Mattie McGrath last week.

“What they did is delay life-saving legislation for six months, and that’s a terrible thing, a terrible cross to bear for the rest of their lives.”

When it was put to him that the rural TDs are representing concerns in their areas, the Transport Minister replied: “I don’t think they can say they represent rural views. The majority of lives lost are rural lives, and I don’t think the sons and mothers and daughters of those who died would share their views.”

He said it would “be no harm” if opponents of stricter drink driving laws met the families of those who have died on the roads due to drink-driving and “ask themselves if they hadn’t opposed this bill whether the figures would be lower”.

Mr Ross’s comments were made at a press conference during which he and Chief Supt Murphy warned the drink driving culture is continuing unabated.

RSA chief executive Moyagh Murdock said 78 more people could die this year unless safety issues were addressed. She also urged the public to be aware of the risk of slippery roads caused by rainfall on roads where tar had been melted by the heatwave.

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