Minister axes plan to give tax breaks to publicans
Fine Gael proposals to introduce tax breaks for publicans who agree to bring customers home at night have been shot down by Transport Minister Shane Ross.
The minister, who is pushing stricter penalties for low-level drink-driving, has ruled out the idea first suggested by his own junior minister.
Brendan Griffin previously told the Irish Independent he would spend the summer "exploring" budgetary ways of assisting publicans, such as a reduction in Vehicle Registration Tax (VRT) or a rebate on fuel costs.
"From a business point of view and from a tourism point of view, anything that helps save our small pubs is saving a part of our tourism product that is hugely important to Ireland," he said.
However, at the launch of Tourism Ireland's mid-year review yesterday, Mr Ross put the pressure back on vintners, saying it was up to them to propose ways of retaining their customers.
Mr Ross said publicans and insurance companies should come together to examine ways of ensuring customers get home safely after an evening in the pub.
"I am quite happy to facilitate it by bringing them together and meeting with them and talking to them together but we certainly haven't talked money in any sense," he said.
Mr Ross's legislation 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. Currently the offence is punishable by a fine and penalty points.
The minister's plan has faced what he described as "an extraordinarily strong campaign" by vintners who argue the tougher rules will stop people going to the pub and increase rural isolation.
Mr Ross said he will not back down or dilute the legislation in any way because it is "basically to make the roads safer".
He argued the vintners say they want to help save lives too. "If they are sincere about it let them get together with the insurance company and others and facilitate their customers by ensuring that they get home safely," he said.
Asked what he had in mind by way of a system for pubs to ferry customers home, Mr Ross replied: "Let's see what they come up with. We're not talking about large expenditure. We're talking about common sense. It's trying to facilitate rural life in Ireland, which is obviously going to be affected."