Massgoers must co-operate with drink-drive checks, say bishops
Bishops have warned Massgoers to co-operate with "the life-saving work" of gardaí amid heated political debate over drink-driving checkpoints near churches.
The issue of gardaí ramping up checkpoints at Mass times has been raised on several occasions in the Dáil.
This week, Independent Kerry TD Danny Healy-Rae said people were "outraged" about gardaí stopping people to breathalyse them while they are en route to Mass or to school or work. "What we do have is plenty of Garda checks. It is not gardaí who are to blame because direction is coming from on high," he said.
"This is happening across every county and every Garda division. People are being checked going to and coming from Mass. Last week, an elderly man was stopped coming home from Mass with his invalided wife.
"What is going on is absolutely ridiculous," he claimed. "People taking their children to school in the morning and women who never drank are being stopped. They are outraged at what is happening," he added.
But the Irish Catholic Bishops Conference told the Irish Independent: "As bishops are pro-life, and indeed individual bishops such as Bishop Fintan Monahan of Killaloe regularly promote safety on our roads for pedestrians, pedal and motorcyclists and for motorists, we all have a civic duty to co-operate with the life-saving work of the Garda Traffic Corps."
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also hit out at the idea that people should not be tested for alcohol.
He said that "people who abide by the laws passed by this Oireachtas have nothing at all to fear from the Garda".
"People who take alcohol or drugs and then drive are a threat to themselves and others.
"People who drink several drinks, get a few hours' sleep, and then drive in the morning are impaired," he said.
"They do cause accidents, they do kill people and they do cause injuries."
Mr Varadkar said it must be remembered that road safety laws are in place to combat road deaths.
In a separate debate during Dáil proceedings yesterday, another member of the Rural Independents technical group criticised the Government for putting too much emphasis on road safety initiatives.
Tipperary TD Mattie McGrath said he did not want any road deaths and referenced recent traffic accidents where people had lost their lives.
However, discussing the fact that more people die by suicide than on our roads, he said: "We are putting significant energy and effort into road safety at the moment. I think it is over the top, OTT".
The Garda Press Office did not respond to queries about whether the perceived spike in checkpoints was borne out and if specific events such as Mass were targeted.
Transport Minister Shane Ross said: "For once Danny is correct. The direction of the Garda is coming from Commissioner Drew Harris. He is completely independently Government."