Noel Dempsey, on behalf of the Government, is pushing through the Dáil new legislation on Drink/Driving. He is planning to reduce the amount of alcohol permitted in the blood by nearly 40% and there are many people who think that this is a step too far. He is in fact facing stiff opposition from backbench Fianna Fáil TDs, particularly rural based TDs such as Mattie McGrath, and it is felt in political circles that there are many opposition party TDs who feel the same way about it but, for political purposes, prefer to let the Fianna Fáil TDs make the running on this issue. Recent modifications to his plans, forced on him by opposition from his own TDs, have somewhat eased the opposition to him, particularly the proposal that if one is caught between the proposed new limit and the old one a fine and penalty points will be imposed, rather than an outright ban for any period.
The Drinks industry is, for obvious reasons, alarmed at this potential development. In general they feel that the industry is going through a hard enough time at the moment without adding new handicaps. The Licensed Vintners association is up in arms and is challenging the assumptions accepted by the Government of the part that Alcohol plays in Road safety or lack of it.
On condition of anonymity a representative from Diageo in Cork said that this proposal was a retrograde step for the industry in the current climate and will only add to the deprivation and depression felt in many remote areas and could have the effect of making effective hermits out of elderly people living on their own. Diageo of course are best known for their Guinness brand but they have a huge international drinks portfolio otherwise. Their representative said that they had just invested heavily in moving to a new Cork Head office in the Atrium Building in the Blackpool Business Park, where the Atrium Business Centre is located, and he said that this move to Blackpool, to new State-of-the-art offices, was an act of faith by Diageo which is not being matched by the Government.