Week’s events: Galway Bikes, tourism statements and drug & drunk driving

30th November, 2014

In a bid to further promote sustainable modes of transport, I was joined in Galway on Monday morning by TV and radio personality, Hector Ó hEochagáin, and Ireland and Connacht Rugby player, Tiernan O’Halloran, for the launch of the Coca-Cola Zero Bikes scheme. This is the first scheme of its kind outside Dublin, where the number of stations have recently been doubled and the number of bikes trebled due to popular demand.


The Galway launch comes in advance of the rolled-out in Limerick on December 8th and Cork on December 18th. When fully complete there will be 730 bikes available for hire across the three cities; 195 in Galway, 215 in Limerick and 320 in Cork. It is anticipated that each bike will be used three times per day on average, generating over 750,000 trips in the scheme’s first year of operation. With an estimated 400,000 people making journeys of 4kms or less every day to work, the potential to coax people out of their cars and onto public bikes is immense. I have no doubt that the take-up in Galway (and later in Limerick and Cork) will be as successful as it has been in the capital, with physical, mental and environmental benefits to follow.


On Wednesday, I addressed Seanad Éireann on our tourism policy and how we are doing in that area. Figures released from the CSO this week showed an increase of 8.8% in overseas visitor numbers for the first 10 months of the year compared to last year, which amounted to an additional 532,000 visitors. The policies being implemented from Government, such as the retention of the 9% VAT rate in Budget 2015, supports the development of the sector which ultimately allows for the retention and creation of jobs in tourism related industries.


On Thursday I announced the introduction of a number of measures to combat drug and drunk driving as part of the Road Traffic Act 2014.  Gardaí will now have the power to conduct Intoxication Impairment Tests at the roadside to determine if someone has been driving under the influence of drugs. These cognitive tests (such as touching your nose, walking in a straight line) will provide an added, and much needed, resource to Gardaí in identifying and prosecuting intoxicated drivers. Gardaí will also be supported in their work through the introduction of a new procedure which allow for a specimen of blood to be taken from a driver who is incapacitated following a road traffic collision, and for that specimen to be tested for intoxicants.  This announcement was in conjunction with the launch of the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and An Garda Síochána’s Christmas and New Year Road Safety Campaign. The launch was attended by Professor Denis Cusack from the Medical Bureau of Road Safety (MBRS) who told us that a staggering 69% of the 10,500 samples that the MBRS tested between 2007-2013, tested positive for drugs. The message that ‘if you drive on drugs you must be out of your head’ has been adopted by the RSA who is running an ad campaign during the festive season to dissuade people from getting behind the wheel of the car if they run the risk of their driving being impaired to any extent.


I also took the Merchant Shipping Bill 2014 through the Dáil at Report Stage and spoke to pat Kenny, prime Time, morning Ireland and the Last Word about the work I’m carrying out on behalf of the Government.


In the constituency I met Cabra residents, representatives of Mountjoy Square and spent an inspirational few hours meeting the staff and participants of Soilse.