By John Clark
Despite the modern trend against drunk driving, a rogue county in southwest Ireland has passed a law that will allow some rural drivers to drive while intoxicated, according to a report from the Huffington Post.
Sources say the Kerry County Council voted this week to pass a measure that would let rural drivers apply for special permits allowing them to drive while drunk.
Five council members voted to support the controversial measure, while only three council members voted against it, according to local sources.
According to Danny Healy-Rae, the council member who promoted the resolution, rural Irish drivers have “never killed anyone” because the areas through which they drive are so sparsely populated.
In addition to the safety argument, Healy-Rae also peddled a mental health argument, although it may not be what one would expect. Sources say the councilman claimed the law would help keep a lot of rural drinkers “from falling into depression.”
Elaborating on his bizarre claim, Healy-Rae said people in isolated rural areas have no public transportation options, and new DUI laws have kept them “at home looking at the four walls, night in and night out, because they don’t want to take the risk of losing their license.”
Of course, while Healy-Rae may have legitimate concerns about the social lives of rural folks in Kerry County, he is also the owner of a local pub, and thus may have a conflict of interest.
The plan, which would allow rural residents to drive after having two or three drinks, according to the law’s proponents, has also drawn criticism from Noel Brett, the chief executive of Ireland’s Road Safety Authority.
According to Brett, it is “unthinkable” that Ireland would reverse its course on drunk driving after making “substantial progress in Ireland in reducing deaths and injuries on our roads, particularly in rural areas which are hardest hit by road fatalities and injuries.”
The proposal has also drawn sharp criticism from Alcohol Action Ireland, a nonprofit organization that has warned Kerry County officials that almost one in three automobile deaths in Ireland are related to alcohol.
Conor Cullen, a spokesman for Alcohol Action Ireland, also questioned Healy-Rae’s appeals to the mental health of rural residents, claiming such a view is far from the truth.
In Cullen’s words, “the link between alcohol use and suicide has been well established and alcohol will exacerbate” the depression experienced by the residents of Kerry County, not reduce it.