The Minister for Transport, Shane Ross, has been called upon to immediately suspend proposals to increase the severity of penalties for unaccompanied ‘L Plate’ learner drivers by independent TD Mattie McGrath.

Deputy McGrath was speaking after the Cabinet agreed to amend the Road Traffic Act to allow for increased fines and confiscation of vehicles, including farm yard and commercial vehicles.

Slamming the proposals, Deputy McGrath said: “This proposal is utterly disproportionate and will generate massive amounts of resentment in rural Ireland in particular.

If Minister Ross is seriously suggesting a new regime whereby critical farm yard vehicles can be confiscated and the farmer can be jailed, then he has truly gone off the deep end in terms of a detachment from rural life.

Questioning how Minister Ross intends implementing what the independent TD described as a “bizarre proposal” for learner drivers, Deputy McGrath labelled the drafts as “completely unworkable” and indicated that it “has the potential to ruin farm and working families that are barely surviving as it is”.

The deputy said that many TDs were concerned that such a plan “smacks of yet another hair-brained Cabinet initiative”, adding that it reflects the “absolute and increasing rural/urban divide” at the heart of Government.

Telling farmers that that they can potentially be jailed or that they will have their machinery seized for allowing a son or daughter to drive a tractor across the yard is incredible nonsense.

“What I am proposing is that we find a more proportionate and effective response to the critical and important issue of road safety that does not involve the excessive penalisation of one distinct element of the community, such as farmers and self-employed people,” Deputy McGrath concluded.