Sunday 22 October 2017

Taoiseach to recommend his TDs to back Shane Ross’s controversial drink driving ban

The move will prove to be first real test of Leo's leadership

Niall O'Connor and Kevin Doyle

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is to recommend his TDs and senators to back Shane Ross’s controversial drink driving ban in a move that will prove to be a first real test of his leadership.

A Cabinet stand-off was avoided today after Mr Varadkar ensured support for Mr Ross’s road traffic legislation - despite a number of Fine Gael ministers expressing serious concern.

Meanwhile, it's understood the Government is willing to support rural publicans who may wish to provide their own bus services to drinkers on a Friday and Saturday night.

The bill will see the introduction of a three month mandatory ban for motorists found to have reached an alcohol limit of between 50mg-80mg per 100ml.

At present, motorists detected to have reached this limit receive penalty points for their first offence.

Opponents say this limit is equivalent of a glass of wine and that Mr Ross’s bill will seriously impact people living down the country.

However, road safety groups insist the proposals are necessary and will bring Ireland in line with other countries.

While some ministers voiced concern at Cabinet over the plan, agreement was secured.

Now, Mr Varadkar will face his parliamentary party in September and ask that they do back the plan.

Read more: Shane Ross says 'free vote in the Dáil will save lives' as he faces showdown over tougher drink-driving laws

Any major resistance to the ban from TDs may force Mr Varadkar into allowing a free vote. However, it’s understood no decisions on whether to allow a free vote will be made until the autumn.

Fianna Fáil is to oppose the bill and instead seek stronger sanctions for those caught drink driving.

This will include increasing the number of penalty points for people who find themselves in the 50-80mg category to five, as well as a €500 fine.

In a statement this evening, Mr Ross took a swipe at the Vintners’ Association and other groups, who he accused of engaging in intense lobbying against the bill.

“Despite considerable lobbying on behalf of Vintners’ groups to oppose this life saving measure, I am grateful to my colleagues at Cabinet for understanding that the arguments presented by the Vintners and other vested interest groups were not based on facts or reliable evidence,” he said.

“I would now ask all members of the Oireachtas, in particular  Michéal Martin and members of the Fianna Fáil party to listen to the very clear evidence of the Road Safety Authority (RSA) rather than to the vintners’ groups, and support this Bill when it is introduced to the Oireachtas after the summer break.”

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