No direct link between increase in road deaths and decrease in traffic corps, says Varadkar
There is no direct correlation between the increase in recent road deaths last year and the cutback in Gardai Traffic Corps, according to Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar.
Last year, around 190 people died on Irish roads, showing a 17pc increase on the previous year, Mr Varadkar said road safety is already increasing this year.
"We can't say yet whether it was a blip or it was a trend. We're 30pc down this year. I know it's only January," he said.
Speaking on RTE radio this morning, Mr Varadkar said he would like to see more enforcement on the roads and appreciates they have a difficult job to do."
When questioned whether there are enough Gardai on the roads, Mr Varadkar said he was stopped by Gardai while driving a few weeks ago, but didn't go into any further detail.
The minister also spoke of a number of new transport initiatives, such as mandatory use of high visibility jackets by cyclists, but helmets will only be optional
Mr Varadkar said he would advise people to wear helmets, but that the "evidence is not overwhelming that it makes a difference".
He added that a number of sanctions for cyclists breaking the rules are also now in operation.
There will be new 'N plates' for novice drivers, who will be taken off the road after seven penalty points within their first two years of getting their license.
The leap card initiative will also be introduced in Cork later this year, for people who regular use public transportation.
There will also be an increase in penalty points for more dangerous offences, such as speeding and using mobile phones while driving. There will be efforts made to cut down on people driving under the influence of drugs, but there are no checkpoints dealing directly with this planned.
Mr Varadkar added that he plans to redevelop the rail line to Belfast, which he said has decreased in quality over time.
"It's falling into decline, quite frankly. There's been a lack of investment in recent years," he said.
Mr Varadkar added that a large indoor complex for elite Irish athletes is in the tender stage, with hopes for it being operational by the end of the decade. He said it was coincidental that it is located in his constituency.
"We're not doing the Bertie bowl on it," he said.
"It will be the missing piece in our sporting infrastructure. We don’t have proper indoor training facilities. Not with our weather. [Elite Irish athletes] shouldn’t have to go to American universities to train indoors."