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Loophole sees drug drivers acquitted



Date Published: 05-Nov-2009

A glitch in the current road traffic laws allows motorists to drive while under the influence of a controlled drug such as cocaine and cannabis.

In the past few months, a significant number of ‘drug’ driving convictions have been overturned on appeal in the Galway Circuit Appeals Court, frustrating Gardaí and members of the public concerned with road safety.

The current Road Traffic Act of 1961 – which has been amended over the years – effectively, allows motorists to drive while under the influence of illegal drugs.

Nowhere in the Act does it specify what levels of drugs are considered unacceptable or dangerous for a motorist. There are specific figures laid down in the Act for alcohol levels and once tested, the results are hard evidence in a court of law.

A number of ‘drug’ driving convictions are being overturned on appeal on the grounds that there wasn’t enough evidence of the motorist’s incapability to drive.

The convictions handed down in District Courts around Galway City and County have involved motorists who were found to be under the legal alcohol limit but on further testing were found to have traces of a controlled blood in their system.

As there are no set limits laid down for drugs, Gardaí have had to give evidence under Section 49 (1) of the Road Traffic Act (1961) that the motorist was incapable of driving.

However, this Garda evidence didn’t hold up in the higher court and were overturned.

Superintendent Tony O’Donnell in Clifden confirmed that he was aware of a number of such cases being overturned in the Circuit Appeals Court.

“I fully accept the decision of the court but the matter has been reported to the Garda Authority and we are seeking that it will be fully examined by the legislators,” he said.

Gardaí will no doubt be closely examining the proposed new Road Traffic Bill 2009 just published by the Minister for Transport, Noel Dempsey, which aims to reduce blood alcohol concentration for drivers and mandatory testing of drivers involved in collisions.

But there is concern that the proposed Bill does not go far enough in addressing the increasing problem of motorists driving after taking a controlled substance.

Intoxicated driving remains one of the main causes of fatalities and injuries on roads and reducing the current limit of 80mgs to 50mgs is believed to go a long way towards saving lives.

Driving under the influence of drugs is already an offence under the Road Traffic Act, according to the Road Safety Authority though without set figures for drug levels, there is an ambiguity which allows convictions to be overturned.

The proposed new Bill will help Gardai in detection, giving them powers to carry out Preliminary Impairment Tests (for example coordination tests) that will determine whether a driver is under the influence of an intoxicant, including drugs.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup



Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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