Vote trivialises the issue of drink-driving

COUNCILLOR Danny Healy Rae's proposal to introduce permits to allow people in isolated areas to drive home from their nearest pub after a number of drinks trivialises an issue that has caused untold heartache and grief for thousands of people in this country.

There is no question but that drink-driving laws have seriously affected the pub trade in villages and towns across the country. Once busy villages are now quiet, with the recession compounding the pressure on publicans.

There is no question, however, that the introduction of recent legislation lowering the drink-driving limit has had a profound impact on the rate of road traffic fatalities and road safety. In that light, it should be seen as one of the most important pieces of legislation governing behaviour in the State. The impact of lower alcohol limits on our road safety is inarguable and is slowly, but surely, leading to a seachange in Irish culture.

Cllr Healy Rae has a lot of support on this issue, there can be no doubt about that. His supporters are mostly ordinary, law-abiding Kerry people who miss the hustle and bustle of the villages in days when drink-driving laws were considerably more lax.

But the cost to human life is simply too high.

By bringing this motion, the Kilgarvan publican is doing nothing less than playing politics with legislation which should be enshrined in the hearts of everyone on this island.

For the hundreds of families bereaved by road accidents, it comes as a smack in the face.

The whole business also asks serious questions of local government in Kerry. A letter will now go out in the name of every man and woman in Kerry calling on Justice Minister Alan Shatter to amend life- saving legislation and for what? The sake of a greater trade for publicans.

It was extremely telling that the councillor's proposal met such little resistance. The five councillors who voted in favour of it are all publicans, sons of publicans or former publicans. Only three councillors voted against it. 12 were absent at the time of vote and seven effectively allowed it through by abstaining from the vote.

The fact that only eight councillors voted on such an important issue shows a remarkable lack of leadership from our would- be political leaders in local government.