Thursday 22 February 2018

Now it's slow lane for ministers along with no state car

ine Kerr Political Correspondent

MINISTERS stripped of their garda drivers will have to get used to life outside the fast lane.

High-speed dashes and bus-lane manoeuvres will be a thing of the past for ministers whose garda drivers had certain powers outside the law.

They were exempt from speed limits and could use the bus lanes to ensure a minister made his or her appointments across the country.

But now, with civilian drivers, ministers will have to abide by speed limits and bus-lane rules.

The Road Traffic Act allows fire brigade, ambulance and gardai to use the bus lane.

Under the Government's overhaul of ministerial travel, senior and junior ministers, the Ceann Comhairle and Attorney General will now have to use their own personal cars and hire civilian drivers.

Garda drivers and state cars will be retained only for the President, the Taoiseach, the Tanaiste, the Justice Minister, the Chief Justice and the Director of Public Prosecutions for security reasons. The changes will save the taxpayer €4m a year.

Former transport minister Seamus Brennan sparked public anger in 2003 when he was seen using a bus lane to avoid rush-hour traffic.

But he pointed to the Road Traffic Act, which exempts gardai performing their duties from the prohibition on bus lanes.

Numerous ministers throughout the years have been reported for "speeding".

In 2007, then justice minister Brian Lenihan defended a high-speed journey through Co Kildare to attend a cross-border crime seminar.

His ministerial Mercedes, driven by a garda, travelled along the M4 at speeds well over 120kmh.

A year earlier, then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was embroiled in allegations that his official car was speeding -- just minutes after he had appealed for drivers to slow down.

On the day in question, between 10.30am and 6pm, Mr Ahern was scheduled to attend 22 engagements at locations across the country -- an appointment every 20 minutes.

Irish Independent

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