Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Motion to Allow Drinks before Driving Draws Fire

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Motion to Allow Drinks before Driving Draws Fire

Article excerpt

KILGARVAN, Ireland -- Nestled in the shadow of the picturesque southern mountain range Macgillycuddy's Reeks, home to Ireland's three highest peaks, Kilgarvan is little more than a blink-and-you- miss-it blip on the busy road between the tourist towns of Killarney and Kenmare: a single street, a straggle of houses, a shop, two bars, a church and a graveyard. But it became the center of an international media frenzy this winter when the local council voted to legalize drunken driving.

That was the way it was portrayed, at least. What the Kerry County Council actually did was to pass a motion calling for people who live in country areas to be allowed to have a few beers before driving home.

The measure was proposed by Danny Healy-Rae, a local pub owner and politician, with an eye to addressing two issues at once: the decline of pub culture and the isolation of rural life, particularly for older residents.

Mr. Healy-Rae's motion called on the minister for justice to allow the police the discretion "to issue permits to people living in rural isolated areas to allow them to drive home from their nearest pub after having two or three drinks on little-used roads driving at very low speeds."

He argued that this would help combat isolation and even lower the risk of suicide.

Political rivals, however, labeled it an empty, populist stunt. But the fact that it passed at all and is even widely regarded as a potential vote-winner speaks volumes for the complex hold that alcohol still has in many facets of Irish life.

How much so can be seen early on a recent Saturday afternoon here, as some of the local lads were enjoying a pint in the Healy- Rae family pub. To a man, they supported the motion. Most were willing to talk about it only anonymously. Irish rural bars can be loquacious places where the lubricant of drink encourages flowing talk, but there also tends to be an inherent suspicion of intrusive outsiders.

John, a retired construction worker who spent most of his life working in England, never remarried after the death of his wife more than 30 years ago. His adult children reside in England, and he is on his own most of the year. …

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