Drink driving laws have been developed in Ireland as a response to a perceived social threat against which we must collectively defend. However, I believe that there is difficulty in translating the aggregate damage into a substantial risk posed by individuals. Recent changes to drink driving legislation merely act to criminalise responsible social drinkers – and does little to make the roads safer.
The reality is that most people (including this writer) are in agreement that drink driving is dangerous and poses an unacceptable risk to other road users and therefore we accept that government must intervene. For obvious logistical reasons, people who live in urban areas with better access to public transport are more accepting of the ever more stringent drink driving rules, but it is also fair to say that those of us living in rural Ireland understand the need to dissuade those who might be tempted from driving in a state of intoxication.
On its surface, the political response to the problem seems simple: reduce the legal limit for blood-alcohol content, and drunken-driving fatalities will fall, too. However, in reality the previous limit and arguably earlier legal limits had already addressed this problem.
People who cause accidents when drink driving do not do so because they had a single small drink, or because they had a few drinks the night before. The problem rests with those drivers who pay no attention to the drink driving limits at all. However, unfortunately for the people of rural Ireland our politicians lack the ability to ‘think outside the box.’ Successive Ministers have been unable to find any new or more imaginative ways to address the problem and therefore they simply bow to pressure from various advocacy groups and simply reduce the legal limit some more. This moronic course of action has effectively closed down rural pubs, led to a significant and increasing level of rural isolation and criminalised people who are actually causing no harm, all for no significant or discernible gain.
The reality is that although drinking makes driving more dangerous, statistically speaking, the vast majority of road accidents are caused by people who have not consumed any alcohol, and the number of accidents actually caused by drunk drivers as a percentage of all accidents is minuscule. Therefore, I pose the question, would it not have simply been fairer and more effective, to substantially increase the penalties for those caught driving at the older higher levels and to introduce a system where there are severe consequences for anybody who causes an accident as a result of being under the influence at any level. In other words, offer back a little ‘personal responsibility’, allow people drive after a few drinks, but severely punish them if they cause an accident and legislate for mandatory prison terms for people who cause a fatality whilst under the influence.
If Fianna Fail is to re-establish their position as a powerhouse in Irish politics they need to beat Fine Gael to the future. I am worried that the current leadership in Fianna Fail are simply satisfied with the status quo, with a tendency to be more concerned about survival than political growth. Michael Martin’s fear of leaving the protection provided to him by the confidence and supply arrangement may well act to secure political stability, but this approach will not be rewarded by the average voter who has more immediate and pressing concerns than Brexit.
This week’s renegotiation of the infamous supply and confidence agreement offered Fianna Fail an opportunity to stamp their mark on the current administration. However, a demonstrably inept effort to negotiate a deal effectively offered Fine Gael a blank cheque, for the duration of this government, in return for nothing more than a promise to deliver on previously broken promises. Micheal Martin has proved once again that he does not understand the “Art of the Deal.” A pre-negotiation declaration that Fianna Fail would support the government through Brexit, “in the national interest,” cultured an environment where Fine Gael knew they needed to offer little more than a few shallow platitudes to keep the Leo show on the road.
This agreement had little to do with Brexit. It was designed to buy extra time for a leader who is not prepared to fight an election and was accepted by a governing party which doesn’t need an election in the absence of any real opposition.
Fianna Fail is being reduced to a shadow of its former self because the party is taking its direction from a leader who has lost sight of its identity. Core values have been abandoned in an effort to “modernise” the party and this has led to a disconnect between the grassroots and its hierarchy. Micheal Martin’s style of leadership is absent of courage he has allowed the mainstream media dictate his stance on all social issues, rejecting the views of the vast majority of the party’s membership and supporters. In this relentless push to promote a liberal agenda, Michael Martin has singularly disenfranchised the party’s traditional supporters for no political gain.
Leaders without vision fail and Fianna Fail’s problem is that its current leadership is lacking in vision. Michael Martin is failing in his job to align the organisation around a clear and achievable vision. By refusing to take up his role as leader of the opposition he has stymied political debate and has caused his membership to become disillusioned.
Unless a new leader rises to the challenge, with a renewed vision for the future of this island, I fear that Fianna Fail is destined to become a spent force in the Irish political landscape.
There is nothing more pathetic than a politician who attempts to gain support by taking advantage of his constituents’ kind nature. It’s high time that we called out the cynical politicians who regularly play the sympathy card to gloss over any discernible lack of achievement.
Some of our politicians simply have no shame. In fact some would even sell their own mother for a vote. While no true leader will ever want a sympathy vote, too many politicians in this area play on the emotions of their constituents to mask their inability to tackle real issues or achieve results.
We should demand politicians who are sympathetic to the plight of their constituents, not politicians who expect sympathy for themselves.
For too long Roscommon has been held back by the “problem merchants,” politicians who spend all of their time whinging about their personal plight, and complaining about issues which they never address, as they know they cannot deliver. We don’t want politicians who are afraid to make promises, we deserve politicians who are brave enough to make promises, and who have the confidence and ability to deliver.
Any amadán can reel off the issues facing people living in rural Ireland, but having the ability to raise an issue does not mean that you have the ability to fix the problem.
So, let’s stop conversing in problems and demand that our politicians bring solutions to the table. That’s their real job after all!