Only in the Kingdom

Some of ye may of heard about proposals from Kerry to allow old fella’s (sorry, I’m using the Irish term for “senior citizens”) to drive home after a couple of jars while a few sheets to the wind. The argument being that sure they never drive that fast anyway and they know where they’re goin!

Of course it seems to be getting more media attention in the UK than back in Ireland. I suspect this may have something to do with the fact that the principal figure behind it is Danny Healy-Rae, son of the infamous Jackie Healy-Rae.

For the uninitiated the Healy-Rae’s are a family of “cute hoors” (that being the Irish equivalent of a spiv or an Arthur Daley type) from Kilgarvan in rural Kerry (and I mean so rural, they think Kilarney is a big city!). There main hangout is “the Healy Rae” a pub that, last time I passed by, they we’re turning into a private members club to get around the smoking bar. You’ll find the place easy enough, its on the only street in the village and there will be one or two battered merc’s parked outside! To say the place is quant is to put it mildly. It’s the sort of place you associate with duelling banjo music!

Of course it is notable that the proposers are all publicans (including Healy Rae). Now in any other part of the world this would be considered a massive conflict of interest and the politicians in question asked to step down, but not in “the Kingdom” of Kerry!

Of course back in the real world, its unlikely to cut mustard. Naturally one can highlight a few obvious flaws in this plan. Notably, by a Garda (that’s the Irish version of the old Bill) issuing a permit for someone to drive home after a few pints and the driver subsequently has an accident. Then there is nothing to stop him, or anyone else injured in that accident from suing the police forces (or indeed the pub who sold him alcohol) for libel.

And by what criteria would the Garda judge an individual is sober enough to drive, other than a breath test? And what’s to stop someone having 2 or 3 pints getting a permit off the cop, driving to another pub and having another 3 and driving home (legally!) legless drunk.

Also the whole point of drink drive limits is to establish a legal limit for an acceptable level of alcohol. Now avoiding the debate about whether the limits are too low or too high, the point is that allowing someone whom you know is dangerously impaired in his driving ability to get behind the wheel cuts right across the principle of having a drink drive limit. It would make more sense to simply argue the limit is too high and raise it, or accept the science backing the present limit is correct and leave it as it is (or lower it further).

While the Rae’s do raise a point about people in isolated communities not being able to socialise, I would note that this is not a problem unique to Kerry. Go to northern Scotland and parts of Canada and people face the same problem. And indeed a common solution is “designated drivers” often where the individual in question gets free complementary (non-alcohol) drinks from the bar (fat chance of that in Kilgarvan!) or where some bars pay for a subsidised “pub bus” to pick people up and drop them off after chucking out time.


2 thoughts on “Only in the Kingdom

  1. I’m sure that more drivers in rural than in urban communities are more inclined to take a chance if they suspect they may be a bit over the limit, if there is a low risk of their being routinely stopped by police.

    I guess it has to be a low limit for everyone, bearing in mind that people’s metabolisation of alcohol varies according to their weight, and to how used to it they are.


  2. Oh,

    And I almost forgot to point out, the majority of accidents on Irish roads take place on small rural roads, which are often quite twisty, narrow poorly lit and littered with potholes (and rarely gritted). Many are often one way (with no passing places!).

    I often find driving on these roads harder than motorway driving, as it requires a lot more concentration.


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