OPPOSING VOICE Former Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Cllr Al Donnell.
A FIANNA Fáil councillor has claimed that he has never witnessed any deaths as a result of a person driving home from a country pub in Mayo. He also said that he would have no difficulty getting a lift from someone who had drunk two or three pints.
Long-serving Castlebar-based councillor Al McDonnell – a former Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council – slammed Minister for Transport Shane Ross for introducing strict new drink-driving legislation, arguing that instead of saving lives it will cause an increase in tragic deaths.
Cllr McDonnell was speaking at last Friday’s Joint Policing Committee meeting, which looked at suicide prevention in the region. Cllr McDonnell said that rural isolation was a contributor to suicide and that the local pub was a social outlet for many people in rural Ireland. He said the new legislation will result in additional rural isolation.
“Many people are now saying to me that Shane Ross’s latest bill has turned rural Ireland into a state of social paralysis,” Cllr McDonnell told the meeting.
“I would condemn someone with excessive alcohol driving home anytime. I am not talking about those people. I am talking about the person who has two or three pints, who has for 30 or 40 years made their way home. I am a long time around and I have not witnessed any deaths by any person driving home from a country pub in Mayo,” he said.
Cllr McDonnell added that he felt the legislation will result in more people drinking at home and unsupervised.
“There will be additional uncontrolled drinking at home and more house parties. This will bring its own serious social problems. Having talked to a lot of people, the latest Shane Ross measures will result in more tragic deaths than it will save.
“That is my honest opinion. It is from somebody who doesn’t take a pint, but I am familiar with the social importance of the country person going to the pub for two or three pints once or twice a week,” he said.
Poacher turned gamekeeper
Cllr McDonnell also described Minister Ross as a ‘typical example of the poacher turned gamekeeper’ due to his own past difficulties with alcohol. As a result he felt he was not the ‘right person to make proper balanced decisions on behalf of the people in this country’.
Cllr McDonnell said the rural community had been let down by their national representatives.
Cllr McDonnell is the second Mayo Fianna Fáil councillor to publicly speak out against the latest drink-driving legislation, with Damien Ryan having also voiced his opposition.
However, Independent councillor Gerry Ginty told Cllr McDonnell that he could not agree with him and felt there should be zero tolerance to drink driving.
“I don’t like Shane Ross … but for once I do agree with him on drink driving,” he said. “In my experience there are very few people who can take one or two pints and leave it at that.
“I know they drive along quiet roads, but a lot of people who go along quiet roads are killed as well. I don’t think encouraging people to have one or two drinks and drive is right. There should be zero tolerance for drinking and driving.
“I believe there should be no alcohol allowed if you are driving, not a half or a glass. The consequence are too serious.”