The Vintners’ Federation of Ireland has today (Tuesday 14th May) strongly criticised government for abandoning rural communities in the wake of changes to drink-driving legislation introduced last October.
Given the lack of clarity about when it’s safe to drive, which has induced fear in local communities, the VFI says urgent action is required to implement sustainable transport solutions for rural Ireland.
Speaking at the Federation’s AGM, Chief Executive Padraig Cribben said the government had passed legislation that has a disproportionately negative impact on rural areas compared to major cities.
Mr Cribben said: “If you live in Dublin you can take the DART or Luas but obviously, those options are not available elsewhere. The legislation was introduced in isolation without any thought about providing alternative transport solutions for rural communities. Rural Ireland is desperate for access to a sustainable transport service”.
The VFI Chief Executive said that a simplified application process for rural hackneys would alleviate some of the problems. “The National Transport Authority said in February that it would simplify the licence application process but three months on all we have is the promise of a limited pilot programme. An Uber-style rural taxi service was also mooted but we see scant progress. What we have is warm words but no action.”
In the absence of meaningful transport solutions, the VFI is calling for the introduction of ‘limited’ licences for drivers convicted in the 50mg-80mg range, a category that previously received three penalty points for a first conviction.
Mr Cribben explained: “Limited licences have proven successful in countries like New Zealand where if a person convicted of a driving offence can prove disqualification will cause undue hardship to their family they can apply for a licence that allows them to drive to and from work. We think this system should be introduced in Ireland for a first offence and we have submitted a proposal to the Department of Transport outlining how it could work.
“While rural areas continue to decline, we hear nothing constructive from government. The blatant disregard for rural communities beggars belief.”
Mr Cribben concluded: “While the desire to reduce road fatalities is laudable, the new drink-driving legislation has instilled fear into local communities particularly with the increased use of checkpoints during the so-called ‘morning after’. Six months on since the law was changed road fatalities have actually increased, which would suggest that instead of targeting rural communities during the morning Garda resources would be more productive elsewhere”.