Last week Minister Noel Dempsey finally settled the debate on what the permissible blood alcohol count for drivers should be and the figure will be lowered from 80 to 50. I think it would be fair to say that, despite the vigorous argument, neither side condoned drink driving. There were valid points made by all concerned but, personally, I believed the argument had become bogged down and much too narrow in its focus.

The goal is to reduce as much as possible the carnage on our roads and the consumption of alcohol is just one part of that problem but it still appears to be the part that is dominating the argument to the exclusion of other important matters. But, perhaps, we will return to that another day.

The reason I raise the subject is that, last week, I read about the craziest court appeal I have ever come across mounted on behalf of a motorist convicted of drunk driving. Even more bizarre, the challenge in the Circuit Court against the District Court conviction was successful!

The case involved a Limerick motorist whose car overturned and ended up on its side in a ditch. Both the driver and his passenger were, thankfully, unhurt and they both managed to crawl out of the vehicle through one of its doors. The gardai found the driver to be unsteady on his feet, his speech was slurred and he admitted he had been drinking. An intoxilyser test showed that the driver had consumed more than twice the legal limit of alcohol.

The man was subsequently convicted of drunk driving in the District Court but at last week’s Newcastle West Circuit Court his barrister and solicitor succeeded in having the conviction overturned. How, I hear you ask. Well, quoting previous case law, the barrister argued that the crashed car, which had to be towed away from the scene, could not be regarded as a ‘mechanically propelled vehicle’ when the gardai arrived because the crashed car was not capable of being driven. What happened before the gardai arrived on the scene was immaterial, declared the defence counsel and the Judge agreed with him. The prosecuting State counsel described the argument as ‘absurd’ but to no avail. Make of it what you will.

Garda uniforms made in Asia

There was a bit of a fuss last week when it emerged that garda uniforms were being manufactured in Asia as opposed to this country. A County Cavan politician, Councillor Peter McVitty, described the situation as ‘crazy’ insisting that there were many companies in Ireland who would be glad of the contract to make the uniforms.

No doubt it would be more satisfactory if the uniforms were made in Irish factories but, of course, politicians in other countries could say the same thing about all the various products manufactured here by foreign owned companies.

The situation was explained by a representative of the National Public Procurement Operations Unit which provides a central buying service for all government departments. The €12.7m, three-year contract for supplying garda uniforms, excluding footwear, is held by a County Monaghan company, James Boylan Safety Ltd. However, that company has subcontracted the work to Indonesia for rainwear, India for trousers and shirts, Sri Lanka for caps and China for accessories.

Mr Jim Ryan of the NPPOU pointed out that the contracts were big enough to attract interest from all over the world and, under EU regulations, no preference could be given to Irish companies. However, Irish companies were winning the main contracts because they were remaining competitive through the purely commercial policy of outsourcing.

Unexpected hidden treasure

Congratulations to Michael Murphy from New Ross and Patrick Hoynes from Glenmore who hit pay dirt recently in a most unexpected way. The two men recently purchased the former Glambia Co-Op premises in Ballyneale, near New Ross, which closed down two years ago. As with the old Co-Op, the new owners intend to sell everything from a needle to an anchor and, as part of their plan, they imported a shipment of coal from Columbia. And as the lads were sorting the coal for bagging they discovered a strange, white rock amidst all the black and, on investigation, it turned out to be a huge gold nugget.

Michael brought his find, which he described as being ‘a ferocious weight’, to a local jeweller who confirmed the gold content and advised the pair to take the specimen to the Geological Society for more detailed analysis. The lads have been told that Columbia is rich in gold nuggets so, perhaps, they really have struck unexpected treasure.

On yer bikes!

According to reports from all over the country, bicycle sales are going through the roof at present, partly due to the government scheme that permits employers to purchase the machines and recoup the money over a period of time. Most buyers seem more interested in the ‘high end’ of the market and, wisely, are equally interested in safety equipment that goes with cycling such as helmets and safety jackets.

Apart from those who are buying bicycles for recreation and exercise, the ‘Cycle to Work’ initiative seems to be doing very well. The scheme enables employers to buy their employees a bicycle and accessories up to a maximum total value of €1,000 without the employee being liable for benefit-in-kind taxation. For a taxpayer at the top rate, this equates to a minimum saving of 41% of the cost of a new bike. The scheme can then operate with either the employer bearing the full cost of the bicycle or by way of a salary deduction agreement.

A quaint take on religion

Met a man last week who told he had recently taken part in a discussion with a group of children who had acquired a rather quaint account of various religious happenings.

For instance, he had never known that Patrick Pio had stigmas put into his hands and nankles before being excommunicated by firing squad at the Bionic Gardens in Dublin. And he was completely taken aback to discover that King Harold murdered all the babies in the Pharaoh Islands and that John the Blacklist was beheaded by the axe of the Apostles. What can I say except, Cripes!

In search of the perfect man

It has only been advertised through word of mouth but a new facility specifically aimed at helping women find new, compatible partners has been operating in a premises near Waterford city centre for some months now. I am not allowed to say where it is but, if I tell you it is one of the highest building in the area and is six storeys high, you can work it out for yourselves.

A female friend of mine has been single for some time and decided to give it a go last week. At reception she paid her money and was told she could choose to check out the records of available men on any of the six floors but it was pointed out to her that once she moved up a floor she could not return to try out a man on a lower one.

On the first floor the sign on the door read as follows. ‘Floor 1 – All these men are financially independent.’ She decided to investigate further and the sign on the second floor said: ‘All these men are financially independent and love children.’ “Very interesting”, she thought, but decided to keep moving upwards.

On floor three, all the men were financially independent, loved children and were very good looking. Floor four contained details of men who were wealthy, loved children, were good looking and would be happy to help with housework. My friend nearly fainted when she arrived at the fifth floor because the sign promised that all the men there had really well-paid jobs, loved children, were good looking, helped with the housework and were extremely good lovers.

She almost succumbed to the promise of such a wonderful man but my friend is inquisitive as hell and felt she just had to find out what was available on the sixth floor. The sign there, in large type, stated that my friend had been the 2,432 visitor and that the floor existed ‘just to prove that women were impossible to please’. Me? I’m saying nothing!