‘People are afraid to eat sherry trifle’: Drink-drive crackdown

Tipperary Fianna Fail TD Jackie Cahill has called for the speedy introduction of a subsidised rural transport service in the wake of the drink-drive crackdown.

“People in rural Ireland are entitled to the same service as the people of Dublin. A rural hackney service needs to be operational as soon as possible.

“The vast majority of TDs think the legislation has gone too far. The way it is being implemented, with early morning checkpoints, is extremely frustrating for people.”

Tipperary Fianna Fail TD Jackie Cahill

Deputy Cahill said the problem of rural isolation is a significant one, with a lot of people living on their own and opportunities for interaction reduced.

“After working all day, people are entitled to be able to go to their local pub to play a game of cards, to meet other people or to have a drink after a funeral. It is important for mental health and quality of life to be able to get out and meet people.

“People are afraid to eat a sherry trifle. The least we can do is put subsidised transport in place,” he said.

The crackdown and the difficulty in getting out and about has caused a strong reaction, Deputy Cahill said. “It is the topic mentioned to me most. People in rural areas feel they are discriminated against. This is the straw that is breaking the camel’s back, after the post office closures.

Minister Ross doesn’t understand how rural Ireland works. You’re talking about a different way of life. People are extremely cross and frustrated.

Publican Tommy Treacy of Treacy’s, The Heath, Portlaoise, has been running a courtesy bus service for the past eight years, offering free transport to Treacys and The Gandon Inn, within a 12km radius.

“It is being used every day and is full at the weekends. Some people misread it as being a ‘booze bus’ but the idea behind it is that people can enjoy a meal and a glass of wine or other drink without having to worry. It offers peace of mind to motorists and pedestrians,” he said.

Help with insurance

“I have noticed that people are coming out earlier and going home earlier. They are very nervous about the drink-driving penalties,” Tommy said. “People are very appreciative of the free service. It was a big investment and insurance is an issue at over €3,000 a year as it needs a PSV licence. I think the Government has to come up with some plan to help with insurance.

“We are fortunate to be well established and the restaurant is very busy. Last Saturday night there was only one table where people weren’t availing of the bus. Our level of business for January and February is very good but it would be a different story if we didn’t have the bus.”

Last week, a spokesperson for the Minister for Mental Health and Older People, Jim Daly, told AgriLand that good progress had been made with most aspects of the proposal to see the introduction of an Uber-style taxi – the ‘Ruxi’ – to help combat rural isolation.