Saturday 23 February 2019

Ministers who criticise enforcement of drink-driving laws 'unfit for Government' - Shane Ross

 

Attack: Shane Ross. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Attack: Shane Ross. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Transport Minister Shane Ross has launched a stinging attack on Fine Gael ministers who criticised Garda enforcement of drink-driving laws by saying they are "unfit for Government".

The minister's comments come after he was subjected to a week of intense private briefing by Fine Gael ministers over road safety laws and his handling of Brexit contingency plans.

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Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Minister Ross said: "Despite intense pressure from vested interest groups on my Government colleagues, I enjoyed their full support for this life-saving drink-driving legislation.

"It goes without saying that any minister who would oppose gardai enforcing the law would be unfit for Government," he added.

Writing in today's Sunday Independent, Mr Ross also scathingly attacks the "lunatic fringe" in Leinster House who have been "huffing and puffing about the evil of breathalysing drink-drivers in the morning".

He also criticises anonymous politicians who "lurk in the shadows" to brief the media against drink-driving laws.

"There are some very odd people with very soft voices roaming the corridors of power," he writes.

"It's a sobering thought that there are low standards in high places when it comes to drink," he adds.

Rural Fine Gael ministers faced a backlash from constituents during the Dail recess over Mr Ross's drink-driving clampdown.

At a Cabinet meeting last week, Fine Gael ministers, including Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan, complained about an increase in early morning Garda breathalyser tests during the Christmas period.

Rural Affairs Minister Michael Ring, Agriculture Minister Michael Creed and Business Minister Heather Humphreys also raised concerns at Cabinet. Independent Minister of State Sean Canney publicly said gardai should focus on other crimes instead of stopping motorists who are drink driving.

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris was forced to defend his use of early morning breathalyser tests after the criticism from Government ministers. Mr Harris said there was a mistaken belief among motorists that they are always safe to drive the morning after they have been drinking.

Yesterday, Fianna Fail justice spokesman Jim O'Callaghan said it was not the job of Government ministers to direct gardai on operational matters.

"If Government ministers want gardai to stop policing certain laws, they should seek to change those laws rather than criticising the gardai for doing their job," Mr O'Callaghan said.

Justice Minister Mr Flanagan said he supports all laws passed by the parliament including those relating to drink-driving.

"Gardai do important work 24 hours a day and seven days a week to protect communities while preventing and detecting crimes," Mr Flanagan said.

Meanwhile, Mr Ross insisted he answered "utterly honestly" when he said he anticipated checks on goods bound for Ireland coming from Scotland through Northern Ireland. His comments sparked controversy when Tanaiste Simon Coveney was recorded telling Mr Ross he should not have discussed checks on the Border because he did not want to be part of a Government that introduces a physical border on the island of Ireland.

"Unfortunately it gave an opportunity for the shadowy spinners from the drunken driving gang to resurface. They care little for the perils of a hard border or the threat of more road deaths," Mr Ross says.

Sunday Independent

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