We need to talk about Arthur

Ready for proper drink-driving legislation?

I usually try to be as balanced as possible, but for once I’m going to stick my neck out and say something controversial.

Ireland’s new drink-driving legislation is one of the most dangerous laws ever to be passed, as it cements the fact that drinking and driving is OK.

Implicit in it is that we have a right to drink and drive, and that the effects of alcohol change depending on your experience and even your job.

Which is nonsense.

Now Minister Leo Varadkar won’t agree – no doubt convinced that he and his department have shown the wisdom of Solomon, he has denied that it’s combination of limits, fines and penalties is a soft touch.

You’ll hear a lot about how it “brings Ireland into line with the rest of Europe”, which is worth a closer look.

Let’s compare the Irish legislation to Sweden.

The Swedish level for a breath test – across the board – is 20mg of alcohol. In Ireland, that level only applies to professional, novice and learner drivers.

I cannot find any reasoning for that, most likely because there is none that stands up to scrutiny.

If you’re found with less than 50mg  in Ireland, you walk away scot free.

In Sweden, you literally walk away, as you lose your driving licence for around ten months and you get hit with a hefty fine.

Between 80mg and 100mg and it starts to sting in Ireland – a €400 fine and a six-month ban.

In Sweden, that will get you at least a month in prison, as well as an even bigger fine.

The idea that drink affects learners and professionals differently is both stupid and discriminatory.

What is the logic behind allowing someone have a limit of 49mg today, only to reduce that to 19mg tomorrow if they get a job as a bus driver? The differentiation is an attempt to be seen to be taking the matter seriously, whilst ignoring the science..

Then there is the idea that a person unable to produce a driving licence should see them treated as a “specified deriver” – the same as a learner or professional driver.

This beggars belief. Not only can they not prove that they are competent to drive, they try to do somehting they are not qualified to do whilst drunk.

There is no compulsion for Irish drivers to seek treatment for alcohol problems either.

In Sweden, drivers are in no doubt – being over the limit at all means you lose your licence and get fined.

Believe me, it makes a difference.

You can argue all you like about personal freedom, the death of the pub trade, the poor farmers stuck on their farms with only a visit to the pub for company and the rest, but there is only one scientifically safe blood-alcohol level when driving, and that is zero.

This legislation is another attempt to appease the Irish people and tell them otherwise.

Varadkar (who admittedly didn’t design the legislation) would be better to bite the bullet and do it properly- his government will undoubtedly be shafted for turning into Fianna Fáil and following their austerity program, so he has nothing to lose.

Why not introduce proper legislation and put the drink-driving myths to bed for good?

That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore

Gardai arresting protestors in Co Mayo (from the Sunday Tribune).

There is nothing as funny as the mass, knickers-in-a-twist hysteria that can grasp a nation, as they simultaneously seem to miss the point completely.

First up was the perfect storm of headlines about a recording of a Corrib Garda saying “Give me your name and address or I’ll rape you” on tape.

Cue the talking heads telling us that rape is a serious crime etcetera etcetera. Like we hadn’t noticed.

Then the swarm moved on to attack Vincent Browne, who said on his TV show last night that jokes about rape are commonplace in the lexicon of the Irish male.

Was Vincent right? Probably, but before you go running to your Twitter machine in disgust you’d do well to remember the playground jokes of your youth.

For people of my age it was mostly Ethiopians, Jews and Kerry people that bore the brunt, as such tragedies as the African famine, the Holocaust and the failure to win five in a row were mercilessly mocked.

Just as music gets worse with every passing generation, so too does humour – the taboos become fewer and fewer and the jokes get more and more crass and tasteless.

It should come as no surprise that such jokes are being made in the workplace, even if that workplace is a squad car – journalist Brian O’Connell referred to an incident on Twitter where a youngster was seen to be making jokes about it at a sporting event.

Despite the great advances in Irish culture, we are not yet a bastion of feminism. And whatever the spin, what the garda in question said was meant as a joke – there was contempt, but no threat or malice.

What is truly alarming is that there has been little debate about why the woman was arrested, when all she seemed to be doing was exercising her democratic right to peaceful protest.

Could it be that the Gardaí have instructions from their political masters not to allow such peaceful protests?

Could it be that they are in effect operating as a private security firm for Shell?

Could it be that a tasteless joke made by an idiot is turning into a smokescreen, where one person’s freedom of speech is being attacked to cover up for the fact that another’s is being denied?