Councillors condemned by alcohol activists

A bid by Kerry councillors to let motorists in rural areas break drink-drive laws has been condemned by alcohol-awareness groups.

Councillors condemned by alcohol activists

Kerry councillor Danny Healy-Rae insists drivers in designated localities should be able to have up to three drinks because social isolation is leading to suicide.

Fellow councillors backed his motion to raise the limit for rural motorists, provoking anger from Alcohol Action Ireland.

AAI’s Conor Cullen warned even small quantities of alcohol impairs driving.

“Almost one in three crash deaths in Ireland is alcohol-related. Even in small amounts, alcohol impairs driving ability — any amount of alcohol increases the risk of involvement in a fatal crash,” he said.

Mr Cullen also took issue with Mr Healy-Rae’s claim that rural isolation led to suicide, warning that alcohol could be a trigger for mental health problems.

“It should be noted that the link between alcohol use and suicide has been well-established and alcohol will exacerbate, not alleviate any mental health difficulties that a person may be struggling with, such as depression or anxiety.

“Those in rural areas who may be suffering from isolation will not benefit from putting their lives and the lives of the other members of their community at risk by drinking and driving.”

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar, who is responsible for the issue, insisted the law would not change.

“Rural areas are among the most dangerous roads in Ireland,” said a spokesman for Mr Varadkar. “We need to be looking at how to make our roads safer, particularly in rural areas, instead of trying to reverse existing measures which are clearly working,”

Mr Healy-Rae’s motion was passed by five votes to three, with other councillors abstaining or absent. Mr Healy-Rae said the permits would be issued at the discretion of local gardaí.

“I’m not asking to break the law,” said Mr Healy-Rae. “What I’m asking is that a different law be implemented for these kinds of people. Two or three drinks would be the amount.

“I don’t want to cause any deaths. What I’m trying to do is prevent deaths because it has been known, and it has been mentioned by our coroner, that suicide is becoming an ever-increasing problem.”

Kerry’s Labour mayor Terry O’Brien attacked the motion. “It is incredibly dangerous. I don’t know how anybody can be allowed to say: ‘You’ve had two pints, so you’re justified to drive’.”

Cork’s deputy lord mayor Emmet O’Halloran has tabled a motion urging Mr Varadkar to ignore the bid.

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