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NSC Board did not approve penalisation of children
By Irish Cycling Campaign
31 May 2004,

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The ongoing public controversy over the activities of the National Safety Council has taken a new twist when it was revealed that the NSC board had not approved the calls being made in its name for compulsory helmet laws. On Thursday 13th of May, NSC Chairman Mr. Eddie Shaw and Chief Executive Mr. Pat Costello organised a media event where they called for the imposition of cycle helmet laws such as those seen in Australia, paticularly for children.
It now transpires that the NSC board neither considered, nor approved, any such proposal at their meeting the week before on Wednesday 6th of May.

The helmet law proposals have provoked fury among cycling activists as the Australian helmet law is widely viewed as a disaster and is as a classic example of self-defeating and failed legislation. In Australia, the helmet laws created a situation where, among others, a 15 year-old girl was strip-searched and jailed, a pregnant woman, a 71 year old pensioner, a even a former Tour-de-France competitor were all jailed for not wearing cycle helmets. Australian courts rapidly became bogged down with cycle-helmet prosecutions. The Victorian Children's Court pleaded to the police to reduce the number of helmet fines being issued. As of 2003, the police in Victoria (population 4.4 million) still issue 20,000 penalty notices each year for failure to wear cycle helmets. This does not suggest whole-hearted popular compliance with the law. Serious questions have also arisen as to whether the helmet laws place Australia in violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The main effect of the Australian helmet laws was to put many people off cycling for no demonstrable safety benefit. Indeed, detailed analysis of the Australian data indicates that the helmet laws resulted in increased risk of accident and injury for cyclists.

According to an Irish Cycling Campaign spokesperson: "We have a curious situation where individuals working for state agency, set up under statute, apparently feel entitled to call for legislation that would incur significant amounts of Garda time while dragging young children into court and making them feel like criminals. This is being done for no demonstrable societal benefit that anyone can determine. Yet the individuals involved, though purporting to act on behalf of the state, apparently felt no need to obtain any prior approval from any higher authority beforehand." Irish Cycle Campaigners have previously called for the NSC to be scrapped on the grounds that it apparently functions as a front for commercial interests associated with the car lobby. The latest revelations are viewed as making the positions of the NSC staff involved increasingly untenable. Cyclists are to hold a protest outside the Dail on Friday 28th May, to call for the dismissal of Mr. Shaw and Mr. Costello.

Irish Cycling Campaign

If you would like to join or contact the Irish Cycling Campaign

David Maher 086 347 5357 (Dublin)
Shane Foran 087 9935993 (Galway)
Darren McAdam-O'Connell 021 4899970 (Cork)

The Cyclists' Experience of the Australian Helmet Laws

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