“If you are going to get behind the wheel of a car, don’t have sherry trifle. It’s as simple as that.”

As heard on Today with Sean O'Rourke

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Makers and fans of sherry trifle will have pricked up their ears this morning listening to Today with Sean O’Rourke, the finger-pointing at that staple of 1970s dinner parties taking place during a heated debate about drink-driving limits.

The combatants (and it was a truly combative spats, at times), were Michael Fitzmaurice, Independent TD for Roscommon-South Leitrim, and Dr. Paddy Smyth, Fine Gael councillor for Rathgar-Rathmines.

“Do you want to go for somebody that’s gone to a party and has a sherry trifle that doesn’t even drink? Do you want them to be going over the limit? Or the priest that says mass of a Sunday? What I’m saying is, if you have a sherry trifle, you are over the limit if you are down at zero tolerance. That’s the madness that the likes of Paddy is on about.”

That was the view of Michael Fitzmaurice TD, as he challenged Councillor Paddy Smyth on his call for blood alcohol levels to be dropped to zero, a step Mr Fitzmaurice described as “madness”, and clearly beyond the levels proposed by Minister for Transport, Shane Ross.

The Minister has suggested a reduction in the limit from 50mg to 20mg as part of the Road Traffic Act, a move also opposed by Michael Fitzmaurice, who is far from the only rural TD unhappy with the proposals.

“Get real and live in rural Ireland. You are above in the middle of Dublin…..”

Unfortunately, the rest of that quote got a little lost as the two public representatives sent the airwaves into meltdown, talking over each other and prompting presenter, Sean O’Rourke, to kill both microphones and gain control of the situation.

When he did, and he put the “sherry trifle” point to Paddy Smyth for a response, the Fine Gael councillor’s answer was pretty unequivocal.

“If you are going to get behind the wheel of a car, don’t have sherry trifle. It’s as simple as that. You don’t consume any alcohol.”

The principal claim made by Michael Fitzmaurice was that deaths on our roads are far more down to the quality of roads themselves and the lack of enforcement of existing laws, including those governing drinking and driving. And that deaths from drinking and driving are principally caused by drivers far in excess of the limits, rather than drivers with marginal traces of alcohol in the blood.

This analysis was dismissed by Paddy Smyth.

“You brought up the matter of rural roads, of policing. Those would take a lot of money to bring up to the standards that we need. We could change this law with the stroke of a pen. They are not mutually exclusive. This is a classic false dichotomy.”

It seems we are a long way from a meeting of minds on this issue.

To listen to the full interview, click here.

© The Listener 2017

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