Monday 16 September 2019

People are being breathalysed 'going to and from mass', says Healy-Rae

Danny Healy-Rae. Photo: Tom Burke
Danny Healy-Rae. Photo: Tom Burke
John Downing

John Downing

Harsh drink-driving laws are being so rigorously enforced that people are being checked by gardaí on their way to and from mass, Kerry TD Danny Healy Rae has said.

Mr Healy Rae accused the Government of now trying to close the churches along with post offices and most other things in rural Ireland.

But the Taoiseach hit back and said the stricter drink driving law was designed to save lives on the road – especially in rural Ireland were there was a higher risk of accidents.

The Independent TD said rural people were now furious because they were being left isolated and without any company or conversation. Under the new legislation people who previously relied upon having just two pints of beer to socialise found they could no longer do that.

“The social fabric of rural Ireland has been blown to smithereens,” Mr Healy Rae said.

He said the latest changes to the drink driving laws had been put through with a promise of more rural link buses. These were announced during the summer by people including Fine Gael chairman, Martin Heydon, but they are proving inadequate.

Mr Healy Rae said people in parts of south Kerry, such as Black Valley, Waterville, Glencar and Beaufort, and in eastern parts of the county like Gneeveguilla, Scartaglin and Currow, were now left isolated. By contrast Dublin and urban areas had many different kinds of transport options.

“People are being checked going to mass, they’re being checked coming from mass. And I’m not blaming the gardaí, or indeed I’m not blaming individual superintendents, because it’s across different divisions and it’s across county boundaries,” Mr Healy Rae said.

He asked if these checkpoints were being ordered by the Taoiseach, the Justice Minister or the Transport Minister, Shane Ross, who had insisted upon the stricter drink driving law.

“Is it the way ye want to close the churches now as well as the post offices. Ye’ve mostly everything else closed. I suppose ye want to close the churches as well now in rural Ireland,” Mr Healy Rae added.  He said bars were deserted and many were now closing and so were nearby businesses.

Replying, the Taoiseach said there was a time when between 600 and 700 people died on the roads every year. Now that number had been reduced to below 200 – which was still 200 too many lives being lost.

“That’s the purpose of the Road Traffic legislation. It’s not to discommode people – it’s not to make their lives harder to lead. It’s to make the roads safer,” the Taoiseach insisted.

Mr Varadkar said checkpoints were a matter for senior gardaí and not the Government.  But he said the checkpoints were to ensure people were not driving under the influence of drink or drugs, they were also to check for tax and insurance, and checkpoints were to deter and catch burglars and other criminals.

The Taoiseach also insisted urban garda checkpoints were also common and it was not confined to rural areas.

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