BY KIERAN O'MAHONYÂ
A WIDE range of business and farming organisations have been invited to meet the Transport Minister to discuss how to combat the rural isolation caused by drink driving laws.Â
Minister Shane Ross has put out a call to the IFA (Irish Farmers Association), ICMSA (Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association), VFI (Vintners Federation of Ireland), insurance companies and other stakeholders to meet him.Â
Speaking in Bandon on Tuesday, while on a visit to the area at the invitation of Deputy Michael Collins, Minister Ross said: âI've sent a letter out to the vintners, to the major insurance companies, to the NTA and to a lot of other stakeholders to come and meet me. Â
âWe'll talk about if there is something we can do, which is in the interest of those who depend on their local bar for their social and cultural life, so that maybe some arrangements can be made by them, which would be of benefit to the customers and publicans,' the Transport Minister said on Tuesday.
He added: âI think any efforts to do this before have failed.Â
âI see the value of communities coming together to respond to this and we'll see what comes of it but I'm absolutely determined that the issue of drink driving doesn't become a rural/urban divide,' he added.
âI do want to say the majority of lives being lost are on rural roads but I do wish to meet you and listen to the difficulties you have. It's simply to save lives.'
Councillors told Minister Ross that people in some rural areas of West Cork were afraid to go to their local pub for fear of being put off the road and that this was leading to the closure of bars and rural isolation.
Cllr Joe Carroll (FF) said the heart was being drained out the rural Ireland and thatÂ it was the âmorning after' that people were worried about.Â
He recalled one particular incident where a mother was recently breathalysed while bringing her children to school. Deputy Michael Collins (Ind) said that this âwas a step too far' and the lack of public transport was making it difficult for people to go to their local pubs.