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Wednesday 16 January 2019

Giving publicans VRT exemptions would help rural areas, says senator

Call: Senator Joe O’Reilly wants more rural transport options. Photo: Tom Burke
Call: Senator Joe O’Reilly wants more rural transport options. Photo: Tom Burke
John Downing

John Downing

A Fine Gael senator has called for a Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) exemption for publicans who carry customers home, in a move that could be worth around €2,200 for each vehicle.

Senator Joe O'Reilly has broken ranks to warn that people in rural Ireland have been made "prisoners in their own homes" by tougher drink-driving laws.

Mr O'Reilly said he supports the drink-drive clampdown - but he has said a number of tax incentives must be urgently implemented to provide alternative transport via hackney and taxi services.

He has warned that bus and train services are not adequate to help arrest the decline in rural communities.

A VRT exemption would be a "very cheap but effective measure", Mr O'Reilly argued.

VRT varies based on the model, age of the vehicle and mileage. Revenue's VRT calculator shows that a Toyota Avensis - a model popular with taxi drivers - from 2015 with 80,000 miles on the clock costs just under €2,200.

The Cavan representative also called for VRT reductions for local taxis willing to work later, and urged the radical extension of the rural link bus services. He has written "in the strongest terms" to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, Transport Minister Shane Ross and Rural Affairs Minister Michael Ring, urging immediate action.

The senator also plans to raise the issue at a special meeting of Fine Gael TDs and senators next Monday ahead of the Dáil returning next week.

His call came as Independent TD Michael Healy-Rae urged the Government to supply every household in the country with a breathalyser so drivers can test themselves before taking to the road.

"If you have to take children to a football game or if you have to go to work then at least you have access to the exact same facility that the gardaí have to test you," the Kerry TD told RTÉ's Claire Byrne on her Monday night programme.

The Rural Independent TDs vehemently opposed the most recent toughening of the drink-driving laws. These were pushed by Mr Ross.

The change took effect before Christmas and means first-time drink-driving offenders now face automatic bans.

Irish Independent

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