Farm leaders on collision course with Minister on drink-driving proposals
ICMSA and ICSA round on Ross over zero-tolerance approach
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.
“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.