Fine Gael to use whip for vote on drink-driving laws

Fine Gael TDs and senators will be whipped into voting in favour of a significant beefing up of Ireland’s drink-driving laws, despite concerns about the impact it could have on rural communities.

Fine Gael to use whip for vote on drink-driving laws

The move was confirmed at a private meeting last night which heard Mental Health Minister Jim Daly warn that a death by suicide due to rural isolation is just as tragic as a death on the roads.

At Fine Gael’s weekly parliamentary party meeting last night, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar urged TDs and senators to back the bill put forward by Independent Alliance TD and Transport Minister Shane Ross.

Currently, a motorist with 51mg-80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood is given three penalty points rather than an automatic ban for the first offence.

Under Mr Ross’ plan, a mandatory three-month driving ban for drivers found over the limit would see them taken off the road.

While not specifically imposing a whip, Mr Varadkar told colleagues he wants to see significant support for the changes and asked for opinions on the issue.

A majority of TDs, senators, and MEPs supported the stricter rules.

However, while not saying they will vote against the party and declining to seek a free vote, a number of rural representatives criticised the bill, including Mr Daly.

He told the meeting that while drink-driving laws are vital, there is no hierarchy on tragedy. He said that someone who dies from suicide due to rural isolation suffers just as tragic a fate as someone who dies because of drink-driving, and noted concerns from some rural communities that the drink-driving clampdown could lead to rural isolation.

Mr Daly was supported by Junior Finance Minister Patrick O’Donovan and Tom Neville, Joe Carey, Paddy Burke, andPaul Coghlan.

Ministers are compelled to support the Government-sponsored legislation due to an agreement within Fine Gael made before the summer recess.

While a number of rural TDs and senators have voiced concerns, it is understood they too will ultimately back the bill, meaning along with Sinn Féin support, it is destined to become law.

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