A county council in south-west Ireland has voted to back a motion allowing for people living in isolated areas to drink and drive.
The motion was passed by Kerry county council on Monday by five votes to three, with the remainder of the councillors either absent or abstaining.
It supports the creation of permit that will allow rural drinkers to drive after having “two or three drinks”. It was tabled by the independent councillor Danny Healy-Rae, who has claimed it would help prevent depression and suicide in the county.
Healy-Rae said people in rural areas were “travelling very minor roads … with very little traffic” and “have never killed anyone”.
He said his proposal would bring back a social outlet for lonely people in rural areas that had been lost after stricter drink-drive laws were introduced.
Healy-Rae, who owns a pub in Kilgarvan, County Kerry, said it would benefit people who are “looking at four walls”, and could help prevent mental illness.
“They’re travelling in 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.
“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 added.
The head of Ireland’s Road Safety Authority criticised the proposal. Noel Brett said the greatest toll in deaths and injuries from road accidents had been felt in rural locations.
“There is very strong evidence which makes an irrefutable link between the consumption of alcohol and impairment,” he said.
Some councillors in Kerry have distanced themselves from the pro-drink-drive motion. The Irish Labour councillor Gillian Wharton-Slattery said she did not want to be associated with the motion.
Addressing Healy-Rae, she said: “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.”