A number of rural TDs have opposed the bill proposing automatic driving bans for drunk drivers

Danny Healy-Rae has told the Dáil that a pint and a half of beer 'never made anybody drunk'.

He was speaking last night in a debate on the Transport Minister's Road Traffic Bill.

If passed, new drink-driving rules would see an automatic driving ban for first-time offenders detected at the lowest limit - a blood alcohol level between 50mg and 80mg.

Anybody under 80mg is not automatically disqualified under current rules.

The Kerry TD said rural Ireland would be hardest hit and he pleaded with Minister Shane Ross to leave rural communities alone.

Deputy Healy-Rae argued: "In the 50-80mg bracket, you have not shown that people were the cause of fatalities, or indeed the cause of accidents, by driving with that amount of alcohol.

"I certainly don't condone drunk driving, but a pint and a half never made anybody drunk."

Addressing the Transport Minister, the Kerry TD added: "So many people are angered, and so angered around the country of what you do minister.

"They're asking the question - what did they do wrong to you? Everything that's being done, minister, is hurting the people of rural Ireland - why don't you just leave them alone?"