Noel Dempsey: new traffic bill

A Fianna Fáil backbencher has called on transport minister Noel Dempsey to be fired from the cabinet over his plans to introduce a new lower limit for drink driving before the end of the year.

Tipperary South TD Mattie McGrath told the Sunday Tribune that Dempsey had drawn up his plan without consulting backbenchers. "There are a number of us who oppose this and we have never been approached by Noel Dempsey and asked about it," he said.

"Dempsey has a lot of these brainwaves. He gets these ideas and he does not ask other Fianna Fáil TDs what they think. He should be moved out of the cabinet."

Last week, Dempsey vowed to forge ahead with the plan, which would reduce the legal limit from 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood to 50mg.

He said the new law would be contained in a Road Traffic Bill that would be published in the autumn. His proposal has met with vigorous opposition from the Vintners' Federation of Ireland (VFI), which has lobbied TDs on the issue.

The Sunday Tribune understands there is enormous anger among the party's backbenchers about Dempsey's handling of the issue. TDs have expressed their concerns that they were not consulted about Dempsey's decision to forge ahead and claim the minister has gone on a solo run.

McGrath claimed that Dempsey informed only some of the party's TDs about the issue.

"It is my right as a Dáil deputy to be consulted about this. If that is the way he wants to operate then he has no place in the cabinet. I don't want to see anyone knocked down or injured by a drunk driver. I am not condoning drink driving, but there is no evidence that people driving below the current limit are causing accidents. The way it is going, the parish priest couldn't say two masses as he would not be able to drink wine at the two masses. That is just taking it too far."

Another backbench TD, who did not wish to be named, said: "The government decision has been made and I don't know why they came to that agreement but it is a done deal.

"I don't think there is a great demand for the limit to be reduced as there are very few accidents attributable to people in the 50mg to 80mg bracket. It is usually multiples of that level that cause accidents. So are we solving a problem that doesn't exist?"