Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Drink driving kills governments?

Is that the sound of the camel's back breaking? Can the straw of drink driving limits really signal an end to this government's reign? Seems like there was a fairly lively meeting of the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party last night discussing Minister Dempsey's proposal to reduce the blood-alcohol limit to 50mg (and 20mg for newly qualified and professional drivers). According to the Irish Times, only Rory O'Hanlon and Michael Kennedy were in favour of the proposals with several rural TDs being extremely vocal in opposition to the measure.

What strikes me as strange is that elected representatives could object to bringing Ireland's drink driving laws more in line with the rest of Europe. Only the UK and Malta match our current level of 80mg. Most others are at 50mg with some at 20mg and a few with zero alcohol permissible. The only possible justification for opposing the reduction is the libertarian point of view that all such laws are unjust interference by the state in a person's right to do what they want. But in this case even that is dubious as driving while under the influence strongly impacts on those around you - pedestrians, cyclists and other motorists.

While I can't wait to see the end of Biffo's rule, it would actually disgust me that after signing up for NAMA and imposing harsh cuts on the poorest sections of society, that the government would fall because some TDs still think it should be ok to have a few jars and then drive home from the pub. It could only happen in Ireland - but it is unlikely to lead to an election.

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