‘No exemptions’ for people caught drink driving

‘No exemptions’ for people caught drink driving
Christina Donnelly with a picture of her son Brendan. 

MINISTER for Transport Shane Ross has outright rejected proposals to introduce exemptions from drink-driving bans after a mother who lost her son to a drunk driver slammed the idea.

Christina Donnelly, whose youngest son died in a car crash involving a drunk driver near Castlemartyr, said she was “absolutely appalled” at a suggestion from the Vintners Federation that motorists who were caught just barely over the limit would be given exemptions from their bans to drive to work. Ms Donnelly said she had been shocked by reports that it was under consideration by the Department of Transport, describing it as a backwards step.

When contacted by The Echo, Minister Ross vehemently rejected the idea.

“There is no question of any legislation relating to drink driving being amended as suggested by the Vintners Federation,” a spokesperson for Minister Ross said.

“Minister Ross would never countenance any dilution of life-saving road safety legislation if it reduces the deterrent to drink and drive.”

New drink-drive laws, introduced in October, were unequivocal in stating that there would be automatic driving bans for anybody found over the legal limit while driving.

It was reported that officials in the Department of Transport had been asked to examine a system, in operation in New Zealand, where a person can apply for a limited licence that would allow them to drive at specific times for specific reasons.

The Vintner's Federation of Ireland (VFI), which represents pubs across the country, urged the Government to consider the scheme.

"What we are looking at is the detail of a scheme that's in New Zealand where those that are caught, very much at the lower end of the scale, would have the facility to use their car for transport to and from work,” Padraig Cribben, the chief executive of the Vintners Federation of Ireland said.

Ms Donnelly, who has been an outspoken campaigner for tougher drink-driving laws, condemned the proposal. 

Her 24-year-old son, Brendan, and his friend Lee Salkeld, died after Brendan’s vehicle was hit by the car of a drunk driver, who was travelling on the wrong side of the road near Castlemartyr in 2009.

She said she was unsurprised that the VFI supported the idea.

“The VFI has always been very much against the new legislation,” she said.

“I was very shocked and disillusioned, on behalf of myself and all the bereaved families, who campaigned tirelessly for drivers to have their licences withdrawn once they were caught over the legal limit."

Ms Donnelly said attempts to overturn the strict drink driving laws would only cause more pain and suffering to families who lost loved ones to drink driving. 

In her son's case, a man was sentenced to five years and disqualified from driving for 15 years as a result of the crash. 

The court heard he had consumed 20 beers, vodka, Aftershock and snorted a line of cocaine before the accident.

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