Shane Ross to press ahead with naming drink drivers

Transport Minister Shane Ross has pledged to go ahead with plans to name and shame drink drivers as road safety campaigners lambasted rural TDs for opposing stricter penalties for offenders.

Kerry TD Danny Healy-Rae was criticised by safety campaigners and families of traffic accident victims over his opposition to plans to automatically ban drivers found over the limit.

Campaigners and ministers met over the legislation with the Road Safety Authority (RSA) revealing that dozens of motorists were killed in recent years by others only slightly over the limit.

Mr Ross said he had held a constructive meeting about the latest road traffic legislation, which will come before the Dáil in the autumn.

Currently, a motorist with between 51-80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood gets three penalty points rather than an automatic ban for the first offence. A mandatory three-month driving ban for drivers found over the limit would see them taken off the road, under the new plans from Mr Ross.

His bill is opposed by Fianna Fáil as well as some rural TDs, who warn it will leave some communities isolated if they can longer have any drinks in a pub and drive. A number of other Independent ministers also want stronger Garda enforcement rather than tougher penalties.

Mr Ross called on Fianna Fáil to support the stronger rules. He confirmed he was examining if supports or tax breaks could be given to rural taxis to bring people home from bars.

As well as examining the strengthening of penalties for speeding or the use of a mobile phone while behind the wheel, he confirmed the idea of naming and shaming drink drivers was also part of the legislation being considered. Gardaí had also given him assurances enforcement would be stepped up, he told the media.

Donna Price of the Irish Road Victims Association said there should be “zero tolerance” for drink-driving.

“We are talking about people who have broken the law,” she said adding that harsher laws were also needed to stop speeding.

RSA chief Moyagh Murdock said research had shown that up to 35 people had lost their lives over five years because of road incidents involving people who had one or two drinks. It was necessary to change people’s attitudes, she insisted, and there should be “no acceptable level” of drink driving.

Ann Fogarty from PARC Road Safety, whose husband Edmund was killed in an accident, said campaigners were angry at TDs who did “not value” people’s lives. Danny Healy-Rae, who opposes the law change, did not deserve air time, she said.

Mr Ross confirmed that the road safety campaigners and their families would continue to press politicians over the summer to support the autumn legislation to ban offending drink-drivers. He said it was up to Fine Gael whether they had a free vote on the bill in September.

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