A NUMBER of gardaí, some of whom are now retired, agree that limited drink driving permits should be issued to some rural dwellers, south Kerry councillor Danny Healy Rae has dramatically claimed.
Responding to a German TV documentary that appears to make a mockery of his controversial proposal by portraying him as a publican 'fighting for more merriness', the independent councillor said that the serious issue behind his argument in favour of drink driving concessions for rural dwellers was being completely misinterpreted.
Reiterating his calls for legislation to allow gardaí issue special permits so rural dwellers could legally drive home after 'two or three pints', Cllr Healy Rae said he has even received the backing of a number of Kerry gardaí who agree that suicide rates in rural areas are of such concern that it merited bending the drink driving laws if that would help prevent more lonely people taking their own lives.
On an official level, however, Gardai have rejected Cllr Healy Rae's proposal out of hand.
"This isn't about me making headlines or being controversial, but a genuine fear for the people I represent," he said. "There are people in the most isolated parts of the county who can't get to the pub anymore and are drinking bottles of whiskey at home, totally unregulated. People are genuinely concerned that this has led to suicides. They are coming to me with genuine fears and I've had the support of a number of gardaí, some recently retired, who know exactly the people I'm talking about."
Cllr Healy Rae, who has yet to see the German Spiegel TV documentary which takes a light hearted look at his proposal, said it is disappointing if the two-minute clip portrays the people of Kerry in a negative light. At one point in the documentary a bus driver is pictured with a pint in his hand, while aother clip shows 70-year-old 'Guinness fan' Francie singing in the bar before driving home.
"No one loves Kerry and its people more than me and I cherish every one of then, so I would not like to see them portrayed in a bad light. But at the end of the day I'm not responsible if other people interpret things for their own publicity or to make headlines," he said. "That's their business, but I genuinely have the people of Kerry at heart and I'd ask people not to be so quick to condemn what I'm proposing until they see and understand the situation and the people I'm talking about. "
Cllr Healy Rae also insisted that his proposal, which he firmly stands over, should only apply to motorists who have consumed no more than three pints and who are travelling on extremely remote, rural roads where a maximum speed limit of 25mph applies.