Tuesday 17 October 2017

Michael Healy-Rae claims drink-driving figures are 'shoved down our throats', calls stats 'misleading'

'It is so easy to come along and point the fingers at low-alcohol level drivers and say this is the cause'

Michael Healy-Rae. Photo: Tom Burke
Michael Healy-Rae. Photo: Tom Burke

Kathy Armstrong

Drink-driving figures are "shoved down our throats" and we shouldn't "point the finger" at motorists with low levels of alcohol in their system, TD Michael Healy-Rae said this morning.

The Independent TD said instead of concentrating on tackling drink-driving we should also look at the other causes of road accidents here.

The Kerry representative was speaking out as proposed stricter penalties for drink drivers are being discussed in the Dail.

Under the bill, drivers caught with between 50mgs and 80mgs of alcohol per 100ml of blood will be automatically disqualified for three months, instead of the current fine of €200 and three penalty points.

The current limit is 50mgs per 100mls of blood, falling to 20mgs for professional and novice drivers, and there is no proposal to reduce this.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, Deputy Healy-Rae called blaming accidents on drink-drivers "unfair."

He said: "Minister Ross' heart is 100 per cent in the right place when he talks about what road safety, at the end of the day what we all want is to save lives on the roads.

"But at the end of the day I believe the minister is concentrating his time and efforts on the wrong subject, there are so many other issues that are causing accidents on our roads.

"It is so easy to come along and point the fingers at low-alcohol level drivers and say this is the cause.

"I've analysed the figures, we've been told and it's been shoved down our throats for so long these statistics about alcohol being related to accidents.

"If you analyse the actual figures, people are been misled in that if a person is a passenger on a bicycle gets knocked down by a car and they have alcohol in their system then it's counted as alcohol-related.

"It's very unfair and very misleading.

"I've looked for and secured an actual breakdown of the figures and it's very far from what people have been told."

He also said that he would like to see Transport Minister Shane Ross highlight the other factors that may be causing road deaths.

TD Danny Healy-Rae, pictured pulling pints in Kilgarvan, Co Kerry, has been criticised for his comments on drink driving. Photo: Don MacMonagle
TD Danny Healy-Rae, pictured pulling pints in Kilgarvan, Co Kerry, has been criticised for his comments on drink driving. Photo: Don MacMonagle

He continued: "What I would like to see Minister Ross do is tax the other issues that are causing people to die on our roads, it shouldn't be happening.

"Our cars are getting better, our roads are getting better, if they are why are people continuing to die on our roads?"

Reaction

The parents of Ciaran Treacy (4) who was killed when Finbarr O'Rourke smashed into the car his mother Gillian was driving near Portlaoise, Co Laois, on Holy Thursday in 2014, said they are "furious" with the comments made by TD Michael Healy-Rae's brother in the Dáil.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae said "nobody in my neck of the woods has caused a fatality after three glasses of Guinness".

He caused controversy on Wednesday when he said that overgrown hedges and bushes are a factor in road accidents in rural Ireland.

Michael defended him, saying: "I'd ask people not to laugh at the suggestion, the truth is these bushes haven't been cut by the local authorities on our roads.

"It is a contributing factor to accidents on our roads, people driving trucks or lorries are trying to  keep out from the hedges so of course it's causing accidents.

"Maybe this will stop people laughing but I know personally of an elderly who was cycling a bicycle and had her eye taken out by the briar of a hedge, that's no laughing matter and an awful horrible accident."

Ciaran's mother said: "I am furious - this attitude hurts me even more because it's like it's 'okay' that our son was killed by a drunk.

"It's scientifically proven that one drink impairs driving and he has the cheek to say three glasses is 'no harm'.

"I wonder if he had to visit his child's grave every day, knowing that a drunk had killed him/her, would he change his attitude?"

She said Mr Healy-Rae was making a "mockery" of the work the RSA does day-in-day-out all year round to keep road deaths down.

She added that after hearing the TD's comments, it was "a kick in the teeth" after opening up her private family home to work on the advertisement to help keep Ireland's roads safe.

Ciaran's father Ronan said he wanted the TD to visit their home.

"I want Danny Healy-Rae to come to sit in my home for 24 hours to see the loss left behind since losing Ciaran.

"I watched my wife struggle to get back to walking properly and I see the loss across my children's faces.

"Danny Healy-Rae is thinking of the next election with this statement and he's incredibly selfish for that.

"It's totally irresponsible for an elected TD to stand up in the Dáil and say such a thing."

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