Healy-Rae drink proposal criticised

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From The Irish Times


An alcohol awareness charity has criticised Kerry councillor Danny Healy-Rae ’s call to allow rural drivers have two or three drinks before driving home.

A motion tabled by Mr Healy-Rae at yesterday’s meeting of Kerry County Council called for special derogation from the alcohol limit for rural drivers, including small tractor drivers. The motion was passed by five votes to three. Seven councillors abstained and 12 were not present for the vote.

Communications officer with Alcohol Action Ireland, Conor Cullen, said that even in small amounts, alcohol impairs driving ability.

 “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.

 “Alcohol Action Ireland would like to see increased, sustained and visible enforcement of mandatory alcohol testing checkpoints by gardaí in order to reduce the number of deaths and injuries on roads. Greater enforcement will increase the risk of drivers being caught drink driving, shift attitudes and behaviour, and save lives. ”

Mr Healy-Rae claimed today that strict drink driving laws were leading to isolation and in some cases, were a factor in suicide. Mr Cullen disagreed with this claim, saying that alcohol was a cause of mental health issues.

 “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. We need constructive solutions to help those people, such as greater investment in community resources, and socialising is an important part of this, but alcohol does not have to be. ”

Senior council officials are now to write to the Department of Justice seeking the introduction of rural permits.