Healy-Rae drink-drive permit plea is rejected
INDEPENDENT TD Michael Healy-Rae has tabled a Dail request, asking Transport Minister Leo Varadkar to introduce new laws allowing for his brother Danny's controversial drink-driving permits.
But Mr Varadkar has dismissed the request out of hand, saying he would "find it difficult to respond to a proposal that would undermine" progress in road safety.
Kerry County Council recently passed a motion from Cllr Danny Healy-Rae requesting that rural dwellers be given permits to allow them have two or three drinks and drive home.
Now his brother Michael, a TD for Kerry South, has asked Mr Varadkar "if he will introduce legislation to allow gardai to issue permits to persons 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".
He added: "This would greatly benefit people living alone looking at four walls and restore some bit of social activity in local pubs and may also help prevent depression and suicide."
But Mr Varadkar responded: "Given the unprecedented progress in road safety in recent years, I find it difficult to respond to a proposal that would undermine so much of that achievement."
Danny Healy-Rae's initial request was passed by a slim majority on Kerry County Council, with five for and three against, while seven councillors abstained and 12 were missing for the vote.
But Michael Healy-Rae will have no success with his request, as Mr Varadkar has firmly ruled it out.
The minister said: "I do understand and appreciate that isolation can certainly exacerbate existing mental-health problems.
"But for the State to encourage the consumption of alcohol as a remedy for complex health issues, would be irresponsible in the extreme.
"Indeed, alcohol is a factor in a large number of suicides. Issues relating to the health of rural communities require a multifaceted approach by Government."