The Editors on new speed limits: Enough of this insufferable nanny state

Yesterday’s announcement of new speed limits for Irish roads should really be the last straw for Irish people who have suffered through years of a Government that seems intent on making every single aspect of life slightly more miserable.

For some years now it has been apparent that where the Irish political class is concerned, the main problem in Ireland is the Irish people: They eat too much, requiring additional regulations on food labelling and a war on the beef and dairy industries. They drink too much, requiring a minimum alcohol pricing law which has delivered no tangible benefits, but enriched large retailers at the expense of the poor. They talk too much, requiring hate speech laws and restrictions on the right to protest. They heat their homes too much, requiring bans on turf and higher sin taxes on fuels. And now they drive too fast, requiring new speed limits, which we were told with no little relish by the Government yesterday will be subject to a “considerable” enforcement campaign involving extra speed checks and nanny cameras on most Irish roads to monitor “constant speeds”.

It is not, nor has it ever been the primary duty of a Government to make the lives of its own people more miserable, and yet that is what those who govern us seem relentlessly intent on accomplishing.

The new speed limits, it must be said, are accompanied by absolutely no evidence that their impact will reduce Ireland’s already low rate of road deaths. In fact, over the past twenty years, Irish road deaths have persistently fallen to be amongst the lowest in the western world. New restrictions on your liberty should require evidence – none has been provided here.

None, that is, relating to road safety. Because the Government did provide evidence – though stressed that this was a “secondary benefit” that the new speed limits might serve to lower CO2 emissions from cars. A cynic might suggest that this is where the reasoning for this announcement begins, and ends: Another unpopular and unloved climate initiative, dressed up in the dishonest language of road safety.

Irish motorists will know the downsides already, but they are worth recounting here: In a country where more people than ever are commuters, these new laws will unavoidably increase commuting times. Irish parents will spend more time in their cars, and less time with their families and children. It is inevitable that prosecutions will rise, as frustrated motorists who have driven safely their whole lives adjust to new and intrusive limits on their driving.

None of this is considered a downside, though, by the most fanatical advocates of this plan: Making driving more expensive and less pleasant has been the overt objective of Irish policymakers for many years now. Dublin residents have experienced this first hand, under the beady eye of a city council and city manager who overtly and openly stated their intention to “encourage” people to get out of their cars in part by making every effort to make driving in Dublin a frustrating and miserable experience.

The very idea that lower speed limits will reduce speeding is nonsensical on its face: Speeding is the crime of breaking the speed limit. Those who do that today will continue to do it regardless of what the limits are. If anything, these new limits will increase incidences of speeding, rather than reduce them. And when a law becomes absurd on its face, compliance with it will naturally drop.

This is not a country, unfortunately, in which we are accustomed to having debates about the role of Government and the appropriate limits on what Government should do. As a result, in recent years ideologues inside the Dáil, and outside it in a legion of supportive NGOs, have been allowed to extend the reach of the Government into almost every aspect of people’s lives. This is now a country of endless preaching, where the public are held to account with much more alacrity than the politicians are. They are blamed for everything from road deaths, to climate change, to objections to unpopular political initiatives. Their very opinions are pathologised, with public dissent being rebranded as “dangerous” and “far right” by an increasingly closeted establishment.

In recent weeks, we have seen the beginnings of a rebellion with a public refusal to pay the entirely unjustified – and unjustifiable – television license. It might be hoped that these new speed limits, which are overtly intended to punish people for the crime of owning a vehicle with a combustion engine, might lead to a similar boycott of Road Tax.

Over the past century, technology has enabled people to traverse their country faster, more efficiently, and in more safety. It is inarguable, for instance, that much of the global reduction in road deaths across the west has much more to do with car safety standards evolving thanks to new technologies than it does with speed limits. But Governments must ever claim credit for even those advancements entirely beyond their control.

Now, the advantages granted our people by those technologies are to be inhibited. Not, as the Government absurdly asserts, on grounds of road safety. But in fact on grounds of climate and emissions.

This is a Government that sees its people as the biggest problem facing the country. It is a sentiment that the public should return, with interest.

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