An Irish councillor wants special licences for rural drunk drivers. What would Flann O'Brien say?

Plus: Beyonce? Lip-syncing the national anthem? How very dare you!


A rare old row has broken out in Ireland over the question of whether people living in rural areas should be given “permits” to drink and drive.

The motion comes from an independent councillor, Danny Healy-Rae, who argued that, since the drink-driving laws were tightened up in 2011, people in rural districts never visit pubs and have become more lonely. Painting a heartbreaking picture, he explained that “the only outlet they have is to take home a bottle of whiskey, and they’re falling into depression, and suicide for some of them is the sad way out”.

Remarking that the lonesome rustics travel on “very minor roads, often on tractors, with very little traffic, and it’s not right they’re being treated the same as the rest of the travelling public – they have never killed anyone”, he suggested they should be allowed by the Gardai (police) to drive home from a pub “after having two or three drinks, on little used roads, driving on very low speeds”. The plan was approved by Kerry County Council by five votes to three, and is now before the Minister of Justice. Labour councillors are incensed and incredulous.

I love this story. I can’t help wondering what Myles na Gopaleen would have made of it (Myles being the journalistic nom de guerre of the great novelist Flann O’Brien.) His Irish Times column used to poke fun at “the Plain People of Ireland” and at the moral corkscrews that politicians use for brains. How he would have enjoyed pointing out that Councillor Healy-Rae is the proprietor of a Kerry pub, as are three of the councillors who voted in favour of his motion, and that Healy-Rae’s suggestion that the lonesome cease imbibing after “two or three drinks” must have come after a long wrestle with his conscience (“Could I say four pints? How about four and a Jameson chaser? Could I get away with five?…”)

He’d have loved Healy-Rae’s picturing of the little bog roads of Kerry and their pitiful traffic – the odd lonesome tractor wending its miserable way home to the cottage whose owner will spend the evening listlessly peeling spuds, saying the Rosary and staring at the wall. He’d have contrasted this with the prospect of the little bog roads becoming Silverstone racetracks of squealing tyres and burning rubber, as drink-maddened tractor drivers slalom homicidally past each other.

He’d also, I suspect, have considered the wider application of the motion, which suggests that people should be treated differently from everyone else if they’re unhappy. So should Kerry people whose lives are lacking in excitement have a permit to burgle the houses of their neighbours, watch TV in their reception rooms and make off with no more than two (possibly three) souvenirs?

How could her critics sync so low?

I can’t understand the whingeing about Beyoncé’s fabulous rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Obama’s re-inauguration. A woman from the Marine Corps Band, which accompanied her, said they’d pre-recorded the backing music and Queen Bey had mimed to a studio-recorded vocal. I don’t believe a word of it. OK, she may have sung over a studio-recorded version, but c’mon – that wasn’t lip-syncing. She was singing her heart out. She was singing her fabulous butt off. If it was over a pre-recording, she was doing a perfect duet with her own voice. And what could possibly be wrong with that?

Twitter: @JohnHenryWalsh

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