Monday 16 September 2019

Mandatory drink driving ban moves step closer after Fine Gael back plan

Proposal has been spearheaded by Transport Minister Shane Ross


Niall O'Connor

A mandatory ban for drink driving has moved a step closer after receiving the backing of Fine Gael politicians.

There had been concerns within the party that some TDs and senators based in rural Ireland would seek a free vote on the bill, which is being spearheaded by Transport Minister Shane Ross.

But at a meeting of the parliamentary party this evening, Fine Gael members accepted a request from Taoiseach and party leader Leo Varadkar to back the measures.

The legislation itself will see the introduction of a three-month mandatory ban for drivers found to have reached an alcohol limit of between 50-80mg per 100ml.

The Cabinet backed the bill earlier this year - despite a number of Fine Gael ministers voicing concerns that the proposals will negatively impact rural communities.

At the final parliamentary party meeting before the summer recess, Mr Varadkar whipped his junior ministers into backing the bill and said the matter would be discussed again in September.

And tonight, he again spoke in favour of the bill and asked that it be supported.

At a meeting of the parliamentary party this evening, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar spoke of the merits and asked that the bill be supported.

While Mr Varadkar did not issue a diktat to his members, nobody present called for a free vote when the bill comes before the Dáil.

There were a number of concerns expressed that the measures could lead to rural isolation and decline.

It was also stated at the meeting that Mr Ross should be encouraged to visit parts of rural Ireland to experience first hand issues of rural decline.

Party chairman Martin Heydon will release a statement this evening which will say that the party is anxious that measures to address such as rural isolation and local transport be addressed.

Fianna Fáil has said it will oppose the bill because it goes over the top.

The main opposition party instead wants to see an increase in the number of penalty points, as well as the size of the fine, levied on offenders. 

Independent Alliance TD Sean Canney is also set to vote against.

But with the support of Sinn Féin and Fine Gael, the measures are expected to pass the Dáil.

However, a number of amendments have been laid down which could alter the end product.

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