Wednesday 12 December 2018

Shane Ross slams TDs who opposed drink driving legislation as 'irresponsible' and 'reckless'

TD Danny Healy-Rae called the new legislation 'sad for rural Ireland'
Photo: Tom Burke
TD Danny Healy-Rae called the new legislation 'sad for rural Ireland' Photo: Tom Burke

Laura Larkin and Robin Schiller

Minister for Transport Shane Ross has claimed that the controversial filibustering from a small number of TDs over stricter drink-driving legislation has cost lives.

Speaking outside Leinster House Mr Ross sharply criticised the behaviour of those who sought to delay the bill as “irresponsible and reckless”.

"I think they have a lot to answer for. What they’ve done is delay this for six of seven months and I hate to say it but I think that that’s cost a lost of lives and it may be responsible for a lot of injuries as well,” he said.

“I can’t point to specific lives it’s cost but the fact that this legislation has been delayed must be very, very dangerous,” he added. 

Donna Price, founder of the Irish Road Traffic Victims Association, agreed with Mr Ross that the delay has cost lives.

“I have no doubt but that it has. Obviously a lot of crashes are a result of drink driving and I think with this new measure being brought in by the minister people simply won’t take the chance anymore because it will result in them losing their license whereas before they may have taken that chance if it simply resulted in three penalty points and a small fine.

Minister Shane Ross. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins
Minister Shane Ross. Photo: Gareth Chaney, Collins

“We need this legislation as soon as we can have it,” she said.

Mr Ross was speaking following the passage of the bill in the Dáil following months of unprecedented filibustering by members of the Rural Independents grouping.

The legislation, which will see first time drink driving offenders disqualified, has taken months to pass through the house due to the opposition to it which sparked lengthy interventions.

The legislation, championed by road safety advocates, will also see car owners who allow learner drivers to drive their vehicle unaccompanied penalised and will give gardai the power to seize a car being driven by a learner driver.

A special Friday sitting of the Dáil this morning was convened in order for the bill to pass.

However, just days ahead of the Dáil’s schedule summer recess the bill has passed by 75 votes to eight in the chamber.

The vote followed a morning of heated debate on the floor of the chamber which descended into shouting matches on more than one occasion.

Ceann Comhairle Sean O’Fearghail was forced to intervene a number of times during the final debate on it.

The bill will now move on to the Seanad.

A round of applause broke out in the chamber when the result of the vote was announced.

Danny Healy Rae, taking to his feet following the announcement of the vote, said “it is a sad day for rural Ireland”.

Noel Clancy, a campaigner to change the current legislation relating to learner drivers, lost his wife Geraldine and daughter Louise after they were struck by an unaccompanied driver.

Mr Clancy said that he takes every day "step by step" following the tragedy on December 22, 2015 and said that listening to certain TDs speak against the bill was "frustrating" to hear.

"We were in the gallery, I think I have been in the Dail 10 or 12 times, and 8 or 9 times in the public gallery, it's almost a second home at this stage and it is absolutely frustrating to listen to the absolute rubbish that was spouted.

"There will probably always be crashes and there will probably always be death on the road, but when you're breaking the law, drink driving, driving at speed, or an unaccompanied learner driver or mobile phone use; if you break the law and after breaking the law you kill somebody then the penalty should be much more severe," Mr Clancy told RTE Radio 1's Drivetime programme.

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