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Five voted to let rural drivers drink more ... guess what? four of them are publicans

FOUR publican councillors and the son of publican voted in favour of a proposal that would allow rural people drive home after "two or three" drinks in their local pub.

Kerry County Council backed the motion tabled by Danny Healy-Rae (Ind) calling on Justice Minister Alan Shatter to allow gardai to grant permits to people living in rural areas.

Only three councillors voted against it, seven abstained and 12 were absent while the vote was taken last night.

Mayor of Kerry Terry O'Brien said today he was "shocked" a letter would now go to the minister, signed by him as mayor, as he is against the motion.

Mr Healy-Rae, who owns a pub in Kilgarvan, Co Kerry, said his motive in introducing the motion was to help prevent people who are "looking at four walls" from falling into depression and turning to suicide.

He insisted his proposals would not "rejuvenate any rural pub" but would bring back a social outlet for lonely people.

Three of the councillors who supported the motion -- Michael O'Shea (FF), Michael Cahill (Ind) and Bobby O'Connell (FG) -- are publicans. Mr Healy-Rae's son Johnny also voted in favour.

Gillian Wharton-Slattery (Lab) said she did not want to be associated with it.

"Depression causes suicide. It's not caused by not being able to go to the pub. There's more things to do in Kilgarvan than go into your pub," she told Mr Healy-Rae.


Brendan Cronin (Ind) said Mr Healy-Rae was representing the interests of the publicans on the council.

Mr Healy-Rae said he believed an exception should be made for country people in drink-driving laws.

"There are many people locked in at home now in rural, isolated places who are looking at the four walls and they can't get out because they can't even have one drink," he said.

He said taxis or hackneys were not viable options and publicans were already doing what they could, dropping their customers home, but their independence was important to them.

"They're travelling on very minor roads, often on tractors, with very little traffic and it's not right they're being treated the same as the rest of the travelling public and they have never killed anyone," he said.

"The only outlet they have then is to take home a bottle of whiskey and they're falling into depression and suicide for some of them is the sad way out."

He said the same rule applied to tractor drivers as the drivers of commercial trucks or buses.

Chief executive of the Road Safety Authority Noel Brett said scientific evidence spoke for itself and the greatest toll in deaths and injuries had been felt in rural locations.

"There is very strong evidence which makes an irrefutable link between the consumption of alcohol and impairment," he added.