Publicans wrong to resist drink driving changes
Minister for Transport Shane Ross did not hold back last week when he suggested some members of the Oireachtas Transport Committee were 'puppets of the publicans'.
He was speaking at the Road Safety Authority's annual conference, where his frustration at a three-month delay in passing stricter drink driving laws was clear for all to see.
He suggested that lobbying by publicans was the root cause of this delay and that lives were being lost as the Oireachtas Transport Committee dragged their heels on the bill in question.
The Road Traffic (Fixed Penalty-Drink Driving) Bill sets out to automatically impose a three-month ban on drivers found with 51-80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. The current penalty for drivers is three penalty points and a €200 fine.
Not surprisingly, the Vintners' Federation of Ireland and the Licensed Vintners Association are resisting any changes to laws they believe are already strict enough. But Minister Ross believes otherwise.
'This is essential legislation, designed to save lives. This Bill is based on scientific research, addressing drink driving at lower limits,' said Ross. He also said that drink driving in this country remains a 'significant problem'.
It really is hard to have sympathy with the publicans on this one. The closer we get to a zero tolerance policy on drink driving the better, and anything that can be done to reduce fatalities on our roads should be welcomed.
As Minister Ross admitted last week, this legislation is not a magic wand, and we continue to have major problems with speeding, drug driving and general carelessness on our roads. But it is a genuine step in the right direction. Instead of lamenting stricter drink driving laws, publicans should put their energies into tailoring their business models to reflect Ireland in 2017.
Pubs, particularly rural ones, shouldn't have to depend on the fella propping up the bar, drinking three or four pints before driving home as a main source of income.
Industries change over decades and centuries, and the pub trade is no different. It is a reality that some publicans have embraced, while others sadly bury their heads in the sand. Those who adapt have a strong chance of survival, the rest will eventually shut up shop.
I really hope the pub remains a focal point of Irish life, but resisting stricter drink driving laws is way off the mark.