‘Pioneer farmers should set up an Uber taxi service’ – Casey

Teetotal farmers should set up an online taxi service to help ease rural isolation and to generate additional income, according to outspoken businessman Peter Casey.

Speaking tonight (Thursday, November 15) on episode 11 of FarmLand, Casey made the suggestion while highlighting his concerns over the country’s new drink-driving laws which came into force just a few weeks ago.

Under the new drink-driving laws, announced last month by Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross, motorists will automatically face a lengthy driving ban for an infringement, rather than penalty points.

More specifically, drivers detected by a member of An Garda Siochana with between 50mg and 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood, 107mg of alcohol per 100ml of urine, or 35mg of alcohol per 100ml of breath, will be disqualified from holding a driving licence for a period of three months and receive a fine of €200.

Last weekend, during the inauguration of the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, Casey approached Minister Ross, of the Independent Alliance, with his concerns about the new law and the Government’s decision in Budget 2019 to increase the VAT rate in the hospitality sector from 9% to 13.5% – essentially a 50% increase.

“I spoke with him for quite some time and I wasn’t speaking for an application to join his grouping. I was giving him a hard time.

“One for doubling the VAT which is going to have a devastating effect in rural Ireland. Just as we are going into the hardest time for these struggling businesses to survive he actually doubled VAT.

“In Dublin you don’t notice it so much, it’s a rounding error, but in rural Ireland these restaurants and hotels are struggling in the winter time.

“I also talked to him about the zero tolerance and low alcohol levels,” said Casey.

I am 100% against drink driving; but you have to recognise that there is a difference between a 17-year-old and a 60-year-old, when you know your body better.

“I believe there should be zero tolerance for people up to the age of 21 or 22; but then have a slightly higher level of tolerance as you get older,” he said.

Uber for farmers

During the conversation, Casey suggested to Minister Ross that Uber – the commercial online taxi driving service – could help address transport and rural isolation challenges in rural areas.

“We need to introduce Uber in rural Ireland. There are a lot of pioneers in rural Ireland, people that don’t drink, never drank, never have had alcohol and they need some extra income.

If they were licensed to drive and pick up people from the farms and take them to the pub and bring them back from the pub, it would be a source of income for the farmers.

“I said it to Minister Ross and I said ‘it’s a disgrace’ that he hasn’t introduced it. I said it could create income for the non drinkers,” said Casey.

“There is an awful lot of loneliness and isolation in rural Ireland and I think that’s one solution – just ring up an Uber system and then someone who is licenced who can take you down to the pub, have a jar, pick you up and drive you back – that would overcome the loneliness and isolation problem,” he said.

Broadband

However, it was also highlighted that such a system would not be possible without broadband connection – another bug bearer for Casey.

“There is such a simple solution to broadband. I went down to Minister Naugthen [the former minister for communication, climate action and the environment] when he first took on the ministerial post; I said fibre is not the way to go – they need to go to 4G.

4G will allow you to get up to 25MB – and that’s all you need to do streaming; that’s all you need to run your small business.

“In four or five years’ time we’ll be wondering why we spent all that time putting in fibre-optic cables that we’re not using,” he said.