— “Lobbyists approach me from the motor sector” said TD.
Fianna Fail spokesperson on sport Kevin O’Keeffe has said judges will be against the planned minimum passing distance law.
The comment was made despite Ireland’s clear separation of powers which means judges are required to — within the law and constitution — enforce the laws which are written by legislators.
The Cork East Fianna Fail TD said that “in principle” he had no issue with the distance but that there are “exceptional circumstances”.
His comments were made at Oireachtas committee on transport, tourism and sport discussion on the Road Traffic (Amendment) Bill and can be found in full context at kildarestreet.com.
Transport minister Shane Ross has promised to bring a minimum passing law forward of 1m in speed limit zones up to 50km/h and 1.5m in areas with higher limits. He had said he will do this using a statutory instrument, otherwise known as secondary legislation, which the minister can sign into law.
Deputy O’Keeffe said: “I know that, but I have the same problem as the Chairman. Lobbyists approach me from the motor sector. In principle I have no problem in regard to the requirement of 1.5 m clearance for cyclists. However, the Minister is bringing it in by statutory instrument, and he will have to accept exceptional circumstances.”
He added: “I will give a typical example. On a rural road, a motorist may be approaching a cyclist from behind, unbeknownst to the cyclist. The cyclist sees a pothole, swerves out, and the motorist hits him. There are no witnesses. Straight away, the statutory instrument says that the motorist is wrong, because he did not maintain a clearance of 1.5 m. How are these issues of road safety going to be addressed by a statutory instrument? Judges will be against it.”
Transport minister Shane Ross, who was appearing at the committee, said: “The statutory instrument is with the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel and will be brought back, I hope, very shortly, although one can never be certain, but I do not think there are too many complications with it. It will be, as announced, a distance of 1.5 m for those travelling in excess of 50 km/h and 1 m for those travelling below that speed. It will not be any more complicated than that.”
He added: “The reason for it is that cyclists’ lives are at stake and they are as important as the lives of others. We want to send them a clear signal that we want to save their lives.
“The number of deaths went up from ten to 15 last year. That is a really serious increase which we should feel obliged to address, and that is what we are doing. In answer to Deputy Troy’s question on why this is being done by statutory instrument, that this is the normal way overtaking legislation is implemented. It is not done by primary legislation,” said Minister Ross.