Deputy Declan Breathnach: Like Deputy Rabbitte, I am not on the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport. I felt these issues should be left to those on that committee. Listening to the debate tonight, I felt I would be a hypocrite if I did not make a contribution. As someone who takes a drink, I will let the drinker who is without sin cast the first stone. The whole issue here centres on responsibility. Young people are setting a trend. If one goes into one’s local pub there is a designated driver. A sensible approach in the main has been taken. I acknowledge there are always those who will flout the law.
The debate tonight, however, centres on the issue of the penalty. I am, like Deputy Cahill and as the Minister is aware, of the view that politics is about the art of compromise. I believe Deputy Robert Troy’s amendment of five penalty points and a €500 fine would set a trend that is a compromise between automatic disqualification and the current three penalty points and €200 fine. We should see how that pans out. It would be unrealistic if we did not listen to the advice of those who know that impairment – and I know it myself as does anybody who takes a drink – is affected by body mass, what one has eaten etc. and will dictate the ability to drive. Ultimately, the 50 mg blood alcohol level is recognised by all of the proposals on the table.
There would be a continuation for those who are not in a position to get a taxi for €5 home within urban and some rural areas. That would be in the interests of rural communities. Others have alluded to rural isolation and the need for people to socialise. Isolation is where one will not get a taxi at a late hour at night. It is wrong to penalise those people. However, setting the marker a little bit higher with five penalty points and a €500 fine, as proposed by Deputy Troy, is a reasonable compromise. It accepts that drink does kill. I mentioned the word “responsibility”. The vast majority of people out there are responsible in their drinking habits. At this late hour, there is room for compromise. I encourage the Minister to accept Deputy Robert Troy’s amendment.