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Bid to let Irish farmers drink and drive is denied

DUBLIN — A license to drive drunk? Some small-town politicians think it’s just the tonic for rural Ireland.

Councilmen in Kerry, southwest Ireland, passed a motion this week asking the government to create a permit that would allow isolated farmers the ability to drink a few pints and then return home in their car, or on their tractor, without fear of being busted.

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Its backers say the measure is needed to combat an epidemic of boredom and depression on farms ever since Ireland imposed tough new blood-alcohol limits on drivers in 2011.

But Justice Minister Alan Shatter shot down the proposal, calling it ‘‘grossly irresponsible.’’

A generation ago, drunken driving was common in Ireland and in small villages. But in this century the country has steadily improved road safety, introducing mandatory driving tests, blood and breath tests, and a penalty-points system that removes licenses from dangerous drivers, particularly drunks. The effort has cut road-related deaths from more than 400 annually in the 1990s to 162 last year.

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