RURAL publican and councillor Danny Healy Rae is calling for the Minister for Justice to allow people living in isolated areas to drink and drive.
The Kilgarvan councillor ( right) called on the Minister to allow gardaí issue permits for people living in isolated, rural areas to drink and drive in a proposal he brought before Kerry County Council on Monday.
One fellow councillor reacted furiously to Cllr Healy-Rae's proposal, but a vote on the issue was carried with two other publicans on the authority voting in its favour. Minister for Justice Alan Shatter will now receive a letter from the Council asking for special legislation to be introduced allowing drink driving in certain circumstances.
Cllr Healy-Rae said that people were becoming depressed and taking their own lives as a result of the stringent drink driving laws introduced in recent years.
His proposal stated: "To ask the Minister for Justice to introduce legislation to allow gardaí to issue permits to people living in rural isolated areas to allow them to drive home from their nearest pub after having two or three drinks on little used roads driving at very low speeds - to be issued at the discretion of the local garda. This would greatly benefit people living alone looking at four walls and restore some bit of social activity in local pubs and may also prevent depression and suicide."
Speaking in support of it on Monday, Cllr Healy-Rae said that a lot of people living in rural Kerry are ' locked at home, staring at the four walls' no longer prepared to go to the pub for a few drinks in fear of being put off the road. "I can't say this legislation is the cause of all suicides, but it is the cause of some of them."
He suggested that he was primarily talking about people who would have driven their tractors to the local watering hole. "But the same law applies to them as to drivers of artic trucks and coaches...you're entitled to a few more milligrams of alcohol if you're driving a car."
Fellow publican and Fine Gael councillor Bobby O'Connell supported the motion but Labour councillor Gillian Wharton Slattery reacted with anger.
She said Cllr Healy-Rae's statement that 'people are committing suicide because they can't get to the pub to drink' was appalling. "Alcohol and drugs are a huge problem in Kerry and cause depression. There is more to life than going to the pub and getting drunk. There are better things to do in Kilgarvan Cllr than going into your pub and getting drunk...as a council we should not be flouting the law by asking to bring in something like this. If pubs are that concerned they should put on their own transport.
"There's no way I want to be associated with this...I would rather I never got elected than support something like this!" she said.
Cllr Healy Rae struck back saying he represented an area with very little taxi or bus support. "I'm not asking for the law to be broken, I'm asking for the law to be changed. It is a serious proposal and has great merit!"
He then suggested the real threat to people's mental health was from the 'unregulated' consumption of alcohol in the home.
Cllrs Bobby O'Connell, Michael O'Shea (publican, FF), Michael Cahill (former publican, Ind) and Johnny Healy-Rae ( Cllr Danny Healy-Rae's son voted in favour of the proposal), three councillors voted against including Gillian Wharton-Slattery (Lab) and Mayor of Kerry Terry O'Brien; 12 councillors were absent from the chamber and seven councillors abstained from voting either way on the matter.