Councillors in south-west Ireland have backed a plan to relax the drink-drive limits for some isolated constituents. The motion backed by Kerry county councillors would allow police to issue permits overriding the legal limit. Councillor Danny Healy-Rae, who proposed the motion, said it would apply to "older people" who "are being isolated now at home, and a lot of them falling into depression".
The motion was passed on Monday afternoon by five votes to three, with seven
abstentions - although 12 councillors were absent for the vote which
took place "towards the end of a long meeting". A number of the councillors who approved the measure are reportedly
themselves pub owners - but Mr Healy-Rae denied that this had influenced the
vote. The county of Kerry, hugging the rugged and windy south-west coast of
Ireland, is known for its mountains, its rural scenic beauty and its winding
Mr Healy-Rae said the people he thought could apply for the permits
"are living in isolated rural areas where there's no public transport of any
kind, and they end up at home looking at the four walls, night in and night out,
because they don't want to take the risk of losing their licence. I see the merit in having a stricter rule of law for
when there's a massive volume of traffic and where there's busy roads with
massive speed. But on the roads I'm talking about, you couldn't do any more than
20 or 30 miles per hour [30-50kph] and it's not a big deal. I don't see any big
issue with it."
Mr Healy-Rae said the current drink-driving rules were forcing an older
generation to stay at home. "All the wisdom and all the wit and all the culture that they had, the music
and the singing, that's all being lost to the younger generation because these
older people might as well be living in Japan and Jerusalem because the younger
generation don't see them at all any more. The council will now call on the justice department to implement the
change. But the move was condemned by the mayor of Kerry, Terry O'Brien, who said: "It is incredibly dangerous. I don't know how anybody can
be allowed to say: 'You've had two pints, so you're justified to drive'. I don't know what expertise one would have to look at someone in a bar to
give them a permit to drive a car after any alcohol."