We asked every TD whether or not they'd ever driven after drinking
"The only comment I can make is I do not drink and drive."
Earlier this week, Taoiseach Micheál Martin sacked his beleaguered Minister for Agriculture Barry Cowen, following revelations that he'd been stopped for drink-driving and driving unaccompanied while a learner driver back in 2016.
Martin was reluctant to sack Cowen, backing him when drink-driving was the only issue on the table. In the end, Martin's support gave out when Cowen refused to answer further questions about the incident in Dáil Éireann, rather than the offence itself.
Many have defended Cowen, including former Fine Gael Minister for Mental Health Jim Daly, who tweeted: "Can’t help thinking that if every TD who previously drove after alcohol raised their hand - we would witness the first Dàil Mexican Wave."
Daly's implication appeared to be that drink-driving - which is still a crime, by the way - is or was widespread among our elected officials. As Daly served in Dáil Éireann for nine years, it seems appropriate to give his words some weight. If it is true that many TDs have driven after drinking, we have every right to be very concerned. Data from the RSA, for example, suggests that alcohol is a factor in three quarters of all road deaths during off-peak hours.
Certainly don’t miss frontline politics on a day like today. Cruel trade. Can’t help thinking that if every TD who previously drove after alcohol raised their hand - we would witness the first Dàil Mexican Wave. Not sure about double administration of justice for politicians.
— Jim Daly (@jimdalyclon) July 15, 2020
In order to gather more information, I emailed every TD in Ireland to ask them two questions:
- Do you agree with Daly's statement?
- Have you ever driven while over the legal alcohol limit?
All 160 TDs were contacted by email for the purposes of this article, and 18 had responded within 24 hours. These are the responses.
Mark Ward (Sinn Féin)
In my short time in the Dáil I have not seen any evidence of Jim Daly's claim and I have never driven above the alcohol limit.
Thomas Byrne (Fianna Fáil)
"Minister Byrne has never driven while over the legal alcohol limit." - Spokesperson for Thomas Byrne
Gary Gannon (Social Democrats)
Jim Daly’s comments are reflective of that Fine Gael belief that everyone is gaming the system until such time as they're caught. It’s untrue and belies the type of selfish arrogance that has defined every government we’ve had since the foundation of the state. Drink driving is abhorrent - it has destroyed lives in our country and should never be characterised as something which is par for the course in Irish life.
Chris Andrews (Sinn Féin)
I don’t personally think this is the case and with regards to if I have ever driven over the alcohol limit, certainly not, as I’m a teetotaller.
Aodhan O'Riordain (Labour)
I’ve no idea. I haven’t but I can’t speak for anyone else.
Willie O'Dea (Fianna Fáil)
The only comment I can make is I do not drink and drive.
Neale Richmond (Fine Gael)
I don’t and I haven’t.
Jennifer Whitmore (Social Democrats)
I have never seen any excessive drinking around Dáil Éireann, and certainly have never seen or was aware of anyone drink driving. I also have not driven whilst over the limit.
Cathal Crowe (Fianna Fáil)
I don’t drink and drive, never have. Don’t believe it’s that prevalent.
Mairead Farrell (Sinn Féin)
I can say that I have never driven after consuming alcohol.
Michael Fitzmaurice (Independent)
I can only confirm that from my time in Dáil Éireann that drinking and driving is not the done thing as you describe in your email. As for above the legal limit, people have different tolerance levels, while I don’t normally drink only on rare occasions, I would avail of a non-drinker giving me a seat home.
James O'Connor (Fianna Fáil)
While the Deputy O’Connor cannot speak for others “that drink-driving is widespread in Dáil Éireann,” he has never “driven while above the legal alcohol limit”.
Paschal Donohoe (Fine Gael)
"Minister Donohoe has never driven over the legal limit." - Spokesperson for Paschal Donohoe
Cian O'Callaghan (Social Democrats)
I don’t believe this to be the case – I’ve never driven after consuming alcohol of any quantity full stop.
Réada Cronin (Sinn Féin)
What an extraordinary comment from an ex-Minister of State. I expect you will also be following up with Jim Daly on this alleged sad indictment of himself and his Fine Gael party colleagues.
In answer to your question, I have never driven while above the legal alcohol limit.
Sean Haughey (Fianna Fáil)
I have never driven while above the legal alcohol limit. I have no information about my colleagues in this regard apart from what is in the public domain.
David Stanton (Fine Gael)
"David has asked me to respond on his behalf and to say that he has never consumed alcohol before driving." - Spokesperson for David Stanton.
Matt Carthy (Sinn Féin)
I can confirm that I have not driven after consuming alcohol and I have no information to suggest that drink-driving is widespread among TDs. Perhaps Jim Daly has other information specific to Fine Gael TDs.