Editorial: Road safety requires constant vigilance
The 60pc drop in the number of drink-driving prosecutions since 2006, when random breath testing was introduced, is a dramatic and welcome development. It is not just drink driving that has been aggressively addressed by lawmakers - a report by the Courts Service has shown major changes in the prevalence of and prosecution of road traffic offences over the last 10 years.
As well as drink driving, dangerous driving prosecutions have also reduced by almost a third in recent years.
Last year, the District Court handed down almost 4,000 fines and disqualified more than 4,000 drivers, with 165 people jailed for drink driving alone.
The sea change in road traffic offences since 2005 is welcome and a credit to politicians, gardai, judges, victims, the public as well as the Road Safety Authority led by broadcaster Gay Byrne, who will soon retire as chairman of that body.
Once Ireland's biggest killer, road deaths fell to the lowest number on record in 2012.
Tackling road deaths required a targeted, well-resourced, multi-disciplinary effort by many parties.
The law, including conviction of road traffic offenders, has played a major part in changing driver behaviour.
So too has dedicated frontline policing by gardai and successful public education programmes.
But with almost 200 deaths last year, we cannot afford to be complacent.
The number of deaths has risen recently. Road safety is a permament priority that requires constant vigilance.
Apprentice shortfall poses risk to recovery
THE dearth of young apprentices seeking to learn a trade is not entirely unexpected, following a property crisis which saw the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs in the construction sector.
The collapse in all but name of the construction sector helped fuel mass emigration from our shores and steered young people who did remain in education away from construction-related studies.
All recessions, even one as severe as that experienced by Ireland in recent years, are cyclical in nature.
And, as the economy recovers, we have been left with a chronic shortage of young people seeking a trade Apprenticeships are vital to meet future demand and to develop a broad workforce.
But there are only four plasterers registered in training this year, compared to 310 in 2004.
And just three apprentices are registered to learn a trade in brick and stone laying - down from 679 in 2004.
The shortage in apprentices poses a risk to a recovering economy which, according to the Economic Social and Research Institute requires 90,000 new homes to be built to meet housing demand.
It is not just the shortfall in numbers the Government needs to address.
Builders and tradespeople of the future are alarmed by technological advances they fear will eliminate or undermine skilled jobs in the sector.
Dealing with the immediate trauma of the collapse has, naturally, occupied our policy makers' time and energies.
But we must plan intelligently for the future to ensure that those dealt a heavy blow in the downturn are not overlooked or neglected as the country's finances and our society embraces better times.