A license to drive drunk? Some small-town politicians think it’s just the tonic for rural Ireland.
Councilmen in Kerry, southwest Ireland, passed a motion this week asking the government to create a permit that would allow isolated farmers the ability to drink a few pints and then return home in their car or on their tractor without fear of being busted.
Its backers say the measure is needed to combat an epidemic of boredom and depression on farms ever since Ireland imposed tough new blood-alcohol limits on drivers in 2011.
But Justice Minister Alan Shatter shot down the proposal during a speech in parliament Thursday as “grossly irresponsible.”
“There is no question of this government, or indeed I don’t believe any future government, facilitating individuals drinking in excess of the blood-alcohol limits,” Shatter told lawmakers.
A generation ago, drunken driving was commonplace in Ireland, and even the smallest villages or forlorn crossroads would feature a pub. But in this century, the country steadily has improved road-safety standards, introducing mandatory driving tests, blood and breath tests and above all, a penalty-points system that removes licenses from dangerous drivers, particularly drunks.
The effort has slashed road-related deaths from more than 400 annually in the 1990s to just 162 last year, a modern low in this country of 4.6 million.