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Seanad Éireann debate -
Thursday, 20 Oct 2011

Vol. 210 No. 17

Road Traffic (No. 2) Bill 2011 [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil]: Report and Final Stages

This is a Seanad Bill which has been amended by the Dáil. In accordance with Standing Order 118, it is deemed to have passed its First, Second and Third Stages in the Seanad and is placed on the Order Paper for Report Stage. On the question "That the Bill be received for final consideration", the Minister may explain the purpose of the amendment made by the Dáil. This is looked upon as the report of the Dáil amendment to the Seanad. I remind Senators that the only matter, therefore, which may be discussed is the amendment made by the Dáil. For Senators' convenience, I have arranged for the printing and circulation of the amendment. Senators may speak only once on Report Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be received for final consideration."

Before we discuss the specifics of the amendment, I would like to briefly set the context within which the amendment is made.

Senators will be aware that road traffic legislation is probably the most challenged in the courts. We must be so vigilant when introducing new legislation. We need to ensure that it can withstand the vigour of legal scrutiny and do the job required. I introduced this Bill in the Seanad a few weeks ago and with the assistance of Senators it passed all Stages. As the Bill originated in the Seanad, I am required to advise Senators of an amendment agreed by the Dáil on Report Stage.

Given the importance of the Bill, dealing as it does with the introduction of new drink driving provisions, we must ensure that the transition from old to new legislation is seamless. This transitional phase must be managed carefully in order that appropriate consequences will apply to those who commit offences prior to the end of the old regime. It is not possible to guarantee that legislation will be watertight but I am hoping that the Dáil amendment approved yesterday will strengthen this legislation and eliminate a potential challenge.

The amendment is essentially a transitional measure drafted following consultation between my Department, the Office of the Attorney General and the Garda Síochána. While preparing for the changeover from the old to the new drink driving limits at the end of the month, my officials identified an issue in relation to the application of consequential disqualification orders following the commencement of section 65 of the Road Traffic Act 2010. Section 65 substitutes section 26 of the principal Act and sets out the consequential disqualifications that will apply where intoxicated driving offences have been committed under sections 4 and 5 of the 2010 Act. Currently, these offences arise under sections 49 and 50 of the principal Act.

There was some concern that where proceedings are under way regarding offences that had been committed under sections 49 and 50, some difficulty might exist in applying the appropriate consequential disqualifications upon the commencement of section 65. The advice of the Office of the Attorney General was sought and, as a result, the agreed amendment makes explicit reference in the provision to offences under the old regime, namely sections 49 and 50. This will ensure consequential disqualifications can apply in all cases as appropriate.

I am sure all Senators will appreciate why I am anxious to fast-track this legislation. These provisions are at the heart of our road safety agenda. It is without question that legislation must be robust enough to ensure that appropriate consequences are properly applied where bad driving choices have been made. By passing this Bill, we are strengthening the legislation in place and making way for new, more stringent drink driving limits to be introduced as early as next week prior to the October bank holiday. This will send a strong message to all road users and should manifest itself in lives saved. That is, after all, the ultimate reason for supporting this Bill. Once again, I thank Senators for their support for the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.
Question, "That the Bill do now pass," put and agreed to.