Friday 18 October 2019

Ross's speeding bill could hit the rails after FG and FF backlash

Tough on speeding: Minister Shane Ross has said that “speed is a killer”. Picture: Collins
Tough on speeding: Minister Shane Ross has said that “speed is a killer”. Picture: Collins
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Plans for more severe penalties for speeding motorists are in serious jeopardy amid a backlash within both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

Transport Minister Shane Ross faces a battle to bring in tougher penalties that are tied to the speed an offending motorist is going.

There have been claims from members of both parties that the proposals are "nanny state" and "draconian" and calls for greater enforcement of existing laws.

It comes in the wake of the deal between Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil to extend the Confidence and Supply Agreement due to the serious threat of Brexit. With Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin agreeing to prop up Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's Government until early 2020 in the national interest, the parties appear more aligned than ever.

The growing anger at Mr Ross's proposed speeding law is one example of the risk to Independent ministers being squeezed out in the next phase of the minority Government's time in office.

Mr Ross's draft bill - which has yet to be considered by Cabinet - has sparked considerable unrest in Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.

Concerns were raised at a meeting of Fine Gael ministers earlier this week and the matter was discussed at private meetings of both parliamentary parties.

Mr Varadkar told his party's meeting that the laws are proposals at this stage and have a long way to go before they could be enacted.

There was fury at suggestions during the week that drivers could get penalty points if they didn't produce their licence to gardaí.

However, the Irish Independent understands that this is not included in the proposals.

The Road Traffic Bill proposes increased numbers of penalty points and fines for motorists depending on how fast they're speeding.

This would replace a flat fine of €80 and three penalty points for the offence.

Mr Ross has said that "speed is a killer" and vowed to confront any opposition to the plan. Last night members of both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil raised their concerns about the bill. All of them expressed opposition to motorists speeding, but argued that existing laws are sufficient if they're enforced.

Carlow-Kilkenny Fine Gael TD Pat Deering claimed the bill is a "step too far" and "there's a perception that this is another nail in the coffin of rural Ireland".

Party colleague Senator Martin Conway said that someone driving from Clare to Dublin could end up getting the maximum number of penalty points in one journey. He claimed the bill is "draconian" and "over the top". Meath East Fianna Fáil TD Thomas Byrne said there are already severe penalties in the existing offence of dangerous driving and this should be used in speeding cases. He said he'd like to see justification that the new system is necessary and he'd prefer to see greater focus on stopping speeding outside schools and villages.

Roscommon TD Eugene Murphy said he doesn't believe Mr Ross's proposal will "ever see the light of day" due to the level of opposition it faces. His party colleague Bobby Aylward claimed "we are becoming a nanny State". He said the current laws should be enforced with greater resources given to the Garda Traffic Corps.

Irish Independent

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