Farm lead­ers on col­li­sion course with Min­is­ter on drink-driv­ing pro­pos­als

ICMSA and ICSA round on Ross over zero-tol­er­ance ap­proach

Irish Independent - Farming - - NEWS -

FARM or­gan­i­sa­tions are to­tally op­posed to pro­pos­als to im­pose manda­tory driv­ing bans on all mo­torists who ex­ceed the drink-driv­ing lim­its by even the small­est mar­gins.

De­scrib­ing the zero-tol­er­ance ap­proach to the drink-driv­ing lim­its as ab­surd and un­re­al­is­tic, both the ICMSA and ICSA claimed au­to­matic driv­ing bans would fin­ish ru­ral pubs and have a neg­a­tive im­pact on life in ru­ral ar­eas.

Their com­ments come as Shane Ross, the Min­is­ter for Trans­port, Tourism and Sport, an­nounced a meet­ing of ru­ral stake­hold­ers to dis­cuss crit­i­cism of his Road Traf­fic Bill.

The meet­ing will take place on Septem­ber 7 and will in­volve rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the farm­ing or­gan­i­sa­tions, as well as the vint­ners, the in­sur­ance in­dus­try and those in­volved in ru­ral devel­op­ment.

Min­is­ter Ross’s bill will in­tro­duce an au­to­matic driv­ing ban for all mo­torists who ex­ceed the blood al­co­hol lim­its. Cur­rently, driv­ers who marginally ex­ceed the lim­its can re­ceive a fine and penalty points.

The blood al­co­hol limit for learner, novice and com­mer­cial driv­ers is 20mg/100ml, while the nor­mal limit is 50mg/100ml.

In a let­ter to the var­i­ous stake­hold­ers Min­is­ter Ross (inset) claimed there was “over­whelm­ing” sup­port in ru­ral Ire­land for his stance on drink driv­ing.

He said his bill would com­bat “the scourge of drink driv­ing” and re­jected sug­ges­tions that the move would ad­versely af­fect ru­ral life.

“As some­one who lives in ru­ral Ire­land my­self, I know that there are many facets to ru­ral life with which al­co­hol is not as­so­ci­ated, whether sport­ing, com­mu­nity, cul­tural or re­li­gious,” Min­is­ter Ross said.

How­ever, the ICMSA and ICSA in­sisted that the im­po­si­tion of manda­tory driv­ing bans was not war­ranted.

ICMSA pres­i­dent John Comer pointed out the trans­port op­tions in north Mayo dif­fered greatly from those avail­able in north Wicklow or south Dublin.

Livelihood

“We’re very con­scious of the need to send a firm mes­sage to those who think they can just drink and drive re­gard­less, but we would have very jus­ti­fia- ble con­cerns about a sit­u­a­tion where no spe­cial cir­cum­stances can be en­ter­tained and an au­to­matic ban — which for some­one liv­ing in a ru­ral area ef­fec­tively means loss of livelihood — is the only re­sponse per­mit­ted,” Mr Comer said.

Ed­die Punch of the ICSA said there was “zero proof ” that peo­ple hav­ing a glass of wine with their Sun­day din­ner in the cities or a bach­e­lor farmer hav­ing a pint and a game of cards in a coun­try pub is in any way the cause of an in­crease in road fa­tal­i­ties in 2016, com­pared to the pre­vi­ous year.

He linked the greater vol­ume of traf­fic on the roads with the rise in the num­ber of road ac­ci­dents.

“We have al­ready gone a long way in clos­ing down ru­ral pubs, now Min­is­ter Ross wants to fin­ish the job,” Mr Punch said.

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