Local police in Ireland's Kerry county will be allowed to permit some residents to drive drunk if a measure passed yesterday by county councilors is approved by the Department of Justice.
By a vote of five to three with 12 councilors absent, lawmakers in the south-west Ireland county passed a motion giving the Gardaí (police) authority to issue a get out of jail free card to drivers in rural areas who are found to have more than the legal limit of alcohol in their system.
The motion's author, Councillor Danny Healy-Rae, said he proposed the motion out of concern for "older" rural residents who "are being isolated now at home, and a lot of them falling into depression."
Healy-Rae said the lack of public transportation in these areas is preventing these people from venturing out of their homes after having "two or three drinks" for fear of losing their licence.
"I see the merit in having a stricter rule of law for when there's a massive volume of traffic and where there's busy roads with massive speed," he told The Journal. "But on the roads I'm talking about, you couldn't do any more than 20 or 30 miles per hour [30-50kph] and it's not a big deal. I don't see any big issue with it."
Healy-Rae added that many older folks are being driven to suicide by their isolation, and "all the wisdom and all the wit and all the culture that they had" is being lost as a result.
Others, including Kerry Mayor Terry O'Brien, opposed the motion, saying it "doesn't make any sense" and is "incredibly dangerous." He added: "I don't know what expertise one would have to look at someone in a bar to give them a permit to drive a car after any alcohol."
Alcohol Action Ireland rep Conor Cullen agrees. "Almost one in three crash deaths in Ireland is alcohol-related," he told the BBC. "Even in small amounts, alcohol impairs driving ability - any amount of alcohol increases the risk of involvement in a fatal crash."
Cullen noted that anti-drunk-driving measures have lowered road deaths by 42% over the last four years. He also noted that alcohol is likely to exacerbate the "mental health difficulties" of a person with suicidal tendencies, not alleviate them.