A rural county in Ireland has supported a proposal to allow drink-driving to prevent people from becoming depressed.
Kerry County councillors voted in favour of a motion that would issue permits to isolated older residents, allowing them to have ‘two or three drinks’ and still drive home, according to The Journal.ie.
Councillor Danny Healy-Rae argued that rural drivers had never killed anyone on the roads in Kilgarvan and told the newspaper: “A lot of these people 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.”
Healey-Rae, himself a pub landlord, claimed the local watering hole was still the centre of the community in rural Ireland and the country roads were empty and narrow meaning drivers could go no faster than 20 or 30mph anyway.
To keep older residents at home in fear of losing their licence meant “all the wisdom and wit and culture they had, the music and singing, that’s all being lost to the younger generation,” he argued.
Calling on the minister of justice, Alan Shatter, to allow the garda to issue the permits he added: “They’re travelling in very minor roads, often on tractors, with very little traffic and it’s not right they’re being treated the same as the rest of the travelling public and they have never killed anyone,” reported the Irish Independent.
Driving the tractor back from the pub ‘less dangerous’
The motion was passed by five votes to three with seven councillors abstaining and 12 absent from the meeting. Mr Healey-Rae’s son Johnny, also a councillor, was among those who voted in favour.
However a number of politicians have spoken out against the proposal, labelling it “dangerous” and inaccurate.
Labour councillor Gillian Wharton-Slattery told Healy-Rae: “Depression causes suicide. It’s not caused by not being able to go to the pub. There’s more things to do in Kilgarvan than go into your pub.”
The mayor of Kerry also weighed in to condemn to motion, telling Irish broadcaster RTE: “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’.”
Noel Brett from the Road Safety Authority also condemned the idea, saying: “There is very strong evidence which makes an irrefutable link between the consumption of alcohol and impairment.”
Conor Cullen of Alcohol Action Ireland pointed out the established links between alcohol abuse, anxiety and depression and told the BBC: “Almost one in three crash deaths in Ireland is alcohol-related. Even in small amounts, alcohol impairs driving ability – any amount of alcohol increases the risk of involvement in a fatal crash.”