It’s only now that the nation is beginning to recover from one of its most traumatic crises in recent years. It all started off innocently enough with the launch of the new Road Safety Strategy.
Nobody seriously believed that this strategy would be any different from its predecessors. It was launched in the usual glorious blaze of back slapping publicity for politicians and the Road Safety Authority. Everybody knew it wouldn’t make any difference to the grim work of slaughter on the roads.
This time, however, somebody put a spanner in the works by insisting that a new law contained in the strategy was actually enforced. This new law required holders of a second provisional licence to be accompanied at all times by a fully licensed driver.
What? Enforcing a law? What’s going on? We don’t mind enacting laws but since when did we start enforcing them? This is outrageous, it’s certainly not the Irish way of doing things and we simply won’t stand for it. Somebody has to pay for exposing us to this dose of reality.
And somebody did pay: Minister for Transport, Noel Dempsey a man who was only doing what hypocritical and incompetent Irish politicians have been doing for decades, was forced into a humiliating climb down. He was forced to revert to the status quo which is as follows:
303,354 learner drivers are forbidden by law to drive without being accompanied by a driver with a full licence. However, under the all powerful, all pervasive Irish cultural law of ‘wink wink nod nod, these drivers are effectively allowed to break the law.
The remaining 121,871 learner drivers are legally allowed to drive without a qualified driver and so have no need of the ‘wink wink, nod nod’ law – yet.
This arrangement is convenient for an overstretched and under resourced police force. It is also convenient for a lazy and incompetent body politic and civil service.
The price for this ‘convenience’ is countless thousands of dead and injured on Irish roads over recent decades and until very recent times, judging by the inaction of officialdom, an acceptable price.
And then along comes Gay Byrne. Yes, good old Gaybo is the man responsible for daring to afflict a dose of reality on our ‘wink wink, nod nod’ culture.
When he first took up his job in the RSA, he made it clear that he wouldn’t be a patsy for anybody; he wasn’t going to be a fall guy for inept politicians, he was going to take his job seriously.
What Gaybo didn’t reckon on was the power of the ‘wink wink, nod nod’ culture, he didn’t realise how deeply dependent Irish society is on a culture that allows it to exist at several removes from reality.
The crisis was only brought to an end when this life saving law was deferred until next June on the pretext that the 121,871 drivers affected needed the time to apply for and sit their test.
Noel Dempsey has assured us that all the problems associated with learner drivers will be resolved by next June and that all laws relating to such drivers will be strictly enforced. Noel may be physically living on planet Earth but it has yet to be established what planet his brain is on.
No, the real reason for this lead in period is to allow Irish society time to recover from the trauma caused by Gaybo’s mad attempt to actually enforce a law.