Ignoring rural life opens the gate for Fitzmaurice, blasts Penrose
The Government's failure to listen to rural Ireland has "left the gates open" for a new party to be formed, former Labour minister Willie Penrose has warned.
The stark warning from the influential backbencher came after new penalty point laws came into force last month that have provoked a deep anger in rural Ireland, which has been ignored by the coalition.
Restrictions on drivers who don't have a valid NCT certificate, and on learner drivers, are regarded as particularly tough on rural dwellers. Other new penalty points that penalise poor parking are another blow, because farmers and those involved in agriculture often have no choice but to park by the side of the road - this could now land them in trouble with the law.
Mr Penrose believes the penalty points issue is symptomatic of a wider dismissal of rural concerns that may cost dearly at the next election.
"Often, legislation is passed which seems to suit the big towns and cities and the region around the Pale without regard to its impact on the rest of the country," he said.
Mr Penrose noted those most affected by the new rules on inexperienced drivers were students living at home and travelling to third level institutions, and those engaged in common rural activities such as parking to check animals in fields. The Labour TD warned that, increasingly, people see all these new rules ''as just another way of punishing people".
"Safety does not seem to be the paramount objective," he added.
Mr Penrose told the Cabinet that if they paid a little more attention to the genuine issues and matters raised by deputies from rural areas, there might not be splits in the parties that are leading to the emergence of new parties and groupings.
Commenting on the rise of independents such as Michael Fitzmaurice, the former minister said: "People are utterly frustrated that their opinions are not getting through. Those of us from outside the Pale believe we often do not get a fair shake of the bag."
Labour TD Micheal McNamara from Clare also told the Sunday Independent that excessive regulation on issues was now damaging the relationship between rural citizens and the gardai.
Mr McNamara said: ''Ordinary decent law-abiding citizens feel they are like fish in a barrel and easily targeted for issues like penalty points. It is damaging the normally warm relationship that exists between the gardai and the citizens," he said.
Mr Penrose also slammed "well-heeled posh brigades who oppose water charges".
Mr Penrose told middle class water protesters that he, and generations of rural dwellers, once had to trek across fields to a well and carry water by hand.
"Those experiences led rural people to create and pay for their own supply."
He welcomed the Government's recognition of their efforts with the €100 grant.