Drink driving offences


I’ve heard the law around drink driving changed recently. What has changed?


Yes, the law around drink driving has changed. Since 26 October 2018, under the Road Traffic (Amendment) Act 2018, drivers who previously got 3 penalty points for certain drink driving offences will now be disqualified from driving for 3 months instead.

It is an offence to drive in a public place if the level of alcohol in your blood, breath or urine is above the prescribed alcohol limit. There are different alcohol limits for new drivers and experienced drivers. New drivers are drivers with learner permits or drivers who have held a driving licence for 2 years or less, or people without a valid licence or permit.

Drink driving offences can be dealt with through the administrative penalty system or the court system. However, the administrative penalty system only applies in certain cases, for example, where the driver has a valid licence or permit and their alcohol intake is below a certain level. The recent legislation changes the additional penalty for experienced drivers found with the lowest levels of alcohol in their system. These levels are:

  1. 51mg to 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood
  2. 68mg to 107mg of alcohol per 100ml of urine
  3. 23mg to 35mg of alcohol per 100ml of breath

Previously, experienced drivers found with these levels of alcohol would be fined €200, and get an additional penalty of 3 penalty points. Now, these drivers will get the same €200 fine, but will also be disqualified from driving for 3 months.

Taxi charges


Can taxis charge higher fares over Christmas and New Year?


Yes, taxis can charge more on certain days over Christmas. There are three different rates under the National Maximum Taxi Fare; the standard rate, the premium rate and the special premium rate.

The standard rate applies from 8am to 8pm, Monday to Saturday. The premium rate applies at night from 8pm to 8am and on Sundays and public holidays. And the special premium rate applies between 8pm on Christmas Eve and 8am on St. Stephen’s Day and between 8pm on New Year’s Eve and 8am on New Year’s Day. The rates are lowest at the standard rate and most expensive at the special premium rate. So, taxis can charge more when the special premium rate applies over Christmas.

The National Maximum Taxi Fare consists of 3 separate parts:

  • Initial charge:amount which appears on the meter at the beginning of the journey. This is €3.80 at the standard rate and €4.20 at the premium rates. It includes an initial distance of 500m, or 85 seconds.
  • Further travel:after the distance/time included in the initial charge has been exceeded, further travel is calculated on small portions of the journey. At low speeds, or when a taxi is stationary, the fare is calculated on the basis of time. The charges for further travel differ depending on what rate applies when you are travelling. The charges are lowest at the standard rate and most expensive at the special premium rate.
  • Extra charge: there are strict rules about extra charges, including a booking fee, additional passenger charges and a soiling charge.

You can ask for a discount before engaging a taxi. Drivers have the right to charge the maximum amount calculated on the meter, or a lower amount at their discretion.

Help for people in mortgage arrears


We’re way behind with our mortgage and can’t pay our other bills either. We’re afraid that the bank will take our home – they keep sending us letters. What can we do?


You can contact MABS, the Money Advice and Budgeting Service, to get help under the scheme of aid and advice for borrowers in home mortgage arrears. Contact the MABS Helpline: 0761 07 2000 (9am – 8pm, Mon – Fri) or your local MABS office.

This scheme is part of Abhaile, the national Mortgage Arrears Resolution Service. It provides a range of services to help you to deal with your situation, including financial advice, legal advice and insolvency advice.

Abhaile is coordinated by the Departments of Justice and Equality, and Employment Affairs and Social Protection. It is operated by MABS along with the Insolvency Service of Ireland (ISI), the Legal Aid Board and the Citizens Information Board. Panels of qualified and regulated professionals provide services under Abhaile.

You will qualify for advice and assistance under Abhaile if:

  • You are insolvent – this means that you are unable to pay your debts in full as they fall due and
  • You are in mortgage arrears on your home and
  • You are at risk of losing your home (for example, if your mortgage lender has initiated repossession proceedings or indicated that they plan to do so; if they have said that they consider you to be non-cooperating; or if they have asked you to consider selling or surrendering your home) and
  • The costs of staying in your home are proportionate to your reasonable accommodation needs

You can contact MABS to check if you are eligible for Abhaile (as eligibility is decided case by case). Read more about Abhaile on mabs.ie.

Regulation of charities


How are charities regulated in Ireland?


The Charities Regulatory Authority (Charities Regulator) regulates charities in Ireland. It maintains a public register of charities and monitors their compliance with the Charities Act 2009. This Act sets out what an organisation must do to be recognised as a charity and the legal obligations for operating as a charity in Ireland.

To be considered a charity, an organisation must:

  • Operate in the Republic of Ireland (though its target group can be elsewhere)
  • Exist for a charitable purpose and exclusively promote this purpose (a charitable purpose is a goal that is of public benefit)
  • Not be an excluded body (such as a trade union, chamber of commerce etc.)

The organisation must first give the Regulator information about itself, so the Regulator can assess if it meets the requirements to be a charity. If the Regulator approves the application, it awards the organisation charitable status, gives it a Registered Charity Number and lists it on the charities register. You can search the charities register on charitiesregister.ie.

It is an offence for an organisation to describe itself as a charity and carry out charitable activities, if it is not registered with the Charities Regulator.

The Regulator can appoint an inspector to investigate a charity’s affairs. The charity and its trustees must co-operate fully and give the inspector all the relevant accounts and documents.

The Regulator can choose to take a charity off the register – for example, if it fails to comply with its financial obligations or give the Regulator the information it requires.

If you are concerned about a charity or its activities, you can raise a concern with the Charities Regulator.

Deadline for Register of Electors: 25 November

To vote in an Irish election or referendum, you must be on the Register of Electors. The Draft Register of Electors for 2019-2020 is now available. You can check it at local authority offices, Garda stations, libraries, post offices, or online at checktheregister.ie, until 25 November 2018. The new Register will come into effect on 15 February 2019.

If you will be aged 18 or over on 15 February 2019, you should check that your name and address are listed and correct on the Draft Register. If there are any mistakes with your details, contact your local authority before 25 November 2018 to have them corrected.

If you are not on the Register and you want to be included on it, you must fill in form RFA (pdf). If you need to correct or change your entry, you must fill in form RFA1 (pdf).  If you are on the Register but your address has changed, you use form RFA3 (pdf). This will also remove you from the Register for your previous address.

Read more about registering to vote.

Science Week

Science Week runs from 11-18 November 2018. This year Science Week has 12 regional festivals where people can learn about Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Each festival has a programme of events which celebrates science and research in the community. These events include family open days, schools outreach events, workshops and public talks.

Read more about Science Week 2018.

GP visit card


I am a full-time carer for my mother. I don’t qualify for a medical card but I’ve heard that a GP visit card for carers is now available. How do I apply to get one?


The rules for GP visit cards have changed. Now everyone who is getting Carer’s Benefit or Carer’s Allowance, at full rate or half rate, is eligible for a GP visit card.

To get the GP visit card, you complete the registration form for carers. The form does not ask for information about your income – just your personal and contact details. You also need to get the form signed by your GP. You must choose your GP from the list of participating GPs.

You can get a registration form, and the list of participating GPs, on medicalcard.ie or by calling LoCall 1890 252 919. You can also register for the card online at medicalcard.ie.

When you have a GP visit card, you can visit the GP for free. It also covers visits to out-of-hours GP services. However, the GP visit card does not cover hospital charges.

Prescribed drugs are not covered by the card but, if you use the Drugs Payment Scheme, there is a limit on how much you have to pay for prescriptions each month. At present, you pay a maximum of €134 in a calendar month for approved prescribed drugs and medicines for use by yourself and your family in that month.

You can download an application form for the Drugs Payment Scheme from the Health Service Executive (HSE) website, hse.ie, or you can get an application form from your pharmacy or Local Health Office.

Getting a copy of my birth certificate


I am planning to get married and need my birth certificate to give notice. I can’t find it. How and where do I get a new one?


If you plan to get married in Ireland, you must give 3 months’ notice. To do this, you need to book a marriage notification appointment at a civil registration service. You need to bring certain documents with you to this appointment, including a full standard birth certificate and a copy of this certificate.

You can apply for a birth, marriage or death certificate, or copies of these certificates, online, by email, by post or in person at a civil registration office or the General Register Office. There is a €20 fee for issuing birth, marriage and death certificates. There is a €4 fee for each photocopy requested (however, you can make copies of certificates yourself).

You can apply for a birth, marriage or death certificate online at lifeevents.hse.ie. You can also apply in person to any civil registration service. Contact details for civil registration services are on hse.ie.

If you wish to apply by post, you should complete an Application for certificate of Birth/Death/Marriage/Adoption/Civil Partnership (available online and at civil registration service offices) and send it to the Office of the Registrar General, Government Offices, Convent Road, Roscommon.

To apply for a certificate by email, you will need to download an Email Application for certificate of Birth/Death/Marriage/Adoption/Civil Partnership, complete the required details and email the form to GROonlinepayments@groireland.ie. When the General Register Office receives your email application, it will email you a secure payment link, allowing you to pay the fee using a debit or credit card. Certificates are printed on secure paper and must be posted.

There is more information available on welfare.ie.