Road Safety Authority criticised for motoring “lobbyist” chairing its annual conference

Two councillors and campaign groups have raised questions over why a motor industry “lobbyist” chaired the Road Safety Authority’s annual conference this week while members of a council’s road safety working groups were not even invited to the conference.

The RSA tweeted the above image and said: “@ConorFaughnan, Chief Executive, Royal Irish Automobile Club kicks off the RSA Annual Conference at @RadissonDublin. This year’s Conference will look at international developments and the benefits of a strategic approach to serious injuries. #VisionZero #IrishRoadSafetyWeek”.

Conor Faughnan was announced as the chief executive of the Royal Irish Automobile Club in July. The Royal Irish Automobile Club’s about section of its website includes the text: “The Irish Automobile Club – as it was first known – was formed at a meeting on 22 January, 1901, and is one of the oldest motor clubs in the world. Set up to further and promote the interests of automobilism in Ireland…”

Faughnan is probably best known for when he worked for AA Ireland, as a director and principal spokesman for the company. The AA is an insurance company — it also advocates for motorists.

The Irish AA was sold by its UK-parent company in 2016. But the AA or Automobile Association was originally set up — as UK-based journalist Carlton Reid wrote — “with the express aim of defeating police speed-traps”.

The RSA’s tweet showing Faughnan chairing their conference gained some strong reactions, including from councillors and campaign groups.

Cllr Oisín O’Connor, a Green Party councillor on Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council, said: “The Road Safety Authority invite a representative of the motoring industry to MC their annual conference. I can confirm that the members of local Road Safety Working Groups were not invited. Source: I am a member of the DLR Road Safety Working Group.”

Cllr O’Connor said: “I don’t have a major problem with The CEO of the Royal Irish Automobile Association* being involved at the conference. It’s that this is a national public body running a conference on an important issue and representatives of local public bodies are not invited to participate.”

Cllr Cristíona Kiely, a Green Party councillor on Waterford City & County Council, said: “Seriously @RSAIreland? Was there no-one else available other than a car lobbyist to MC an event on road safety?”

The Dublin Commuter Coalition, a campaign group focused on sustainable transport, said: “Ireland’s Road Safety Authority invites Ireland’s leading car lobbyist to chair their conference on serious injuries and then hands out high-vis vests to children. They’re clearly unfit for purpose.”

The Navan Cycling Initiative, a campaign group, said: “Why is someone who recently objected to lower speed limits which is proven to safe lives acting as your chair? Completely inappropriate.”

The RSA was contacted to seek comment for this article but the authority did not reply yesterday as it was implied that they would or after a follow-up request for comment earlier today.

UPDATE: RSA defends “car lobbyist” chairing its conference, says MC had no input into event content

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