A WAR of words has broken out between Cork South West’s independent TD Michael Collins and Fine Gael’s Jim Daly, after the minister accused rural TD’s of ‘Killnascully style play-acting’ and ‘scaremongering’ over the new Road Traffic Bill.
In last week’s Southern Star Minister Daly accused the independents of causing hysteria and confusion over the new bill which will put a driver off the road for three months if convicted of driving with a blood alcohol level of more than 50mgs.
Previously, a conviction at this level resulted in three penalty points and a fine. Disqualifications were only given in cases of more than 80mg blood alcohol levels. For learner drivers and professional drivers, the new limit is 20mgs. For learner drivers caught driving their parents cars, the parent or owner can face criminal charges under the new bill.
Hitting back, Deputy Collins agreed there was confusion but not of their making, and called on the Minister for clarity: ‘Will the Minister explain what 50mgs or 20mgs mean in reality? People that the 20mgs limits applies to, do not know if they can even drink a half pint.’
Deputy Collins said he was ‘the only Oireachtas member who sat through the full 30 hours debate’ on the bill’ where he made several proposals.
‘I proposed the doubling of the fine and penalty points between 50 to 80mg. This would mean six penalty points, but this was rejected. For learner drivers, I made a case that learner drivers who had completed all their driving lessons and were waiting for a driving test for up to six months in some cases, could be given a special type of license which would allow them to drive to work, but not for social use or night-time driving. This would only apply while the learner drivers were waiting for a driving test, but this was also rejected.’
Because of the opposition from the rural TDS , Minister Shane Ross, gave funding for a limited Rural Bus Service at night-time.
‘But this, while welcome, is only a drop in the ocean and I will be calling for a substantial increase in this service going forward. The Minister also announced an increase in the number of driving testers, but we will have to wait see the impact on the waiting times for a driving test. But why were these changes only announced during the debate on the bil? The answer is quite simple. It was the opposition from the rural TDS , that forced Minister Ross to react.’
He said it wasn’t the first time that Minister Daly had accused him of scaremongering: ‘When myself and other community activists were concerned that the closing of the 24 hour A&Es in Bantry , Mallow and the South Infirmary would lead to big problems in the CUH and the Mercy University Hospital, Minister Daly said we were scaremongering, but they are silent since CUH trolley figures are often the highest in the country.’
Deputies Collins and Danny Healy Rea are organising for their 11th bus to travel from here to Belfast for sight saving catract surgeries this month.
‘It is shameful that our people have to endure this long journey, which could be carried locally if the Minister and the Government had the will to do so. I have invited the Taoiseach, or any minister, or any Government representative to travel to Belfast by bus with the patients, who are traveling for their cataract surgery, and to see what these people endure to save their sight. But the invitation has not been availed of so far. I now repeat this invite, in case it was forgotten about: will the Minister travel on one of the cataract busses in the coming months, to see first-hand what patients endure?’