Saturday 18 November 2017

Taoiseach whips juniors into line on Ross drink drive bill

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has whipped his team of ministers of State into voting for Shane Ross's controversial drink driving bill.

Speaking at the Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting, Mr Varadkar said junior ministers would be expected to back a decision by the Cabinet to support the proposed three-month mandatory ban.

The Fine Gael leader said the party would discuss the controversial legislation as a whole once it was published in the autumn. Significantly, he gave no indication that he would allow a free vote on the matter.

The decision to include his junior ministers in the Cabinet decision means a defeat for the bill is now highly unlikely. But senior Government sources last night said Mr Varadkar had already begun consulting his rural TDs who have serious concerns about the Road Safety Bill.

Mr Ross's bill will see the introduction of a three-month mandatory ban for motorists found to have reached an alcohol limit of between 50mg-80mg per 100ml. At present, motorists detected to have reached this limit receive penalty points for their first offence.

Opponents say this limit is equivalent of a glass of wine and Mr Ross's bill will seriously impact people living in the country. However, road safety groups insist the proposals are necessary and will bring Ireland in line with other countries.

The mood within the Fine Gael party is mixed to the proposal to introduce an outright ban.

Some Fine Gael TDs said they favour the Fianna Fáil proposal, which would see motorists who fall beyond this limit being hit with five penalty points and a €500 fine.

TDs and a number of ministers are particularly concerned over the impact the move will have on people living in isolated areas.

"We are talking about the elderly neighbour who has a few pints on a Saturday night. Will he continue to do so now that he could be stopped the next morning on his way to Mass?" asked one minister.

But sources across the party said Mr Varadkar was not prepared to allow the issue to become divisive.

Irish Independent

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