In a visit to the Abbey C.B.S., Tipperary town, RTE Presenter, Gay Byrne praised the part played by the school in the area of driver education.
As Chairman of the Road Safety Authority of Ireland Gay made a speech to senior students, teachers and invited guests and stated that it was not the Garda Sióchána, the Government or the RSAI that would cut road deaths but, “That is the job of each and every citizen and that is why programmes like what has been developed here in the Abbey C.B.S. are so important.”
Gay Byrne also commented that while the annual total number of fatalities had fallen very significantly, “The rate of decline this year had not been as good as we had hoped; there is a danger of complacency and we must all renew our efforts to end the misery caused by careless and reckless driving.”
Sixth Year student Eamon O’Carroll had earlier taken Gay and driving instructor, Mr. Joe Quinn, for a drive on the Abbey’s driving course. Gay then listened to a talk by Micheál Gleeson who used the MOG car to show Transition Year students the importance of proper use of seat belts and head restraints . A member of the Garda Traffic Corps gave a talk on their work and students from St. Anne’s Mercy School, who also availed of the driving course, joined the Abbey students.
Gay, a well-known motor cycle aficionado, was particularly interested in the work of Mr. Brendan Power, who uses the Abbey grounds at weekends to train beginners and he watched with great interest as Brendan put two adult motorcyclists through their paces. Next stop was a visit to one of the Abbey’s computer rooms where Gay observed students studying for the Driver Theory Test.
“Very few can claim to have been as influential, or recognisable or as loved as Gay Byrne has been for the past 50 years by the people of Ireland,” said Principal Mr. John Heffernan in his welcome speech to Gay Byrne. “His status, reputation and credibility were put to the very good use when he was appointed Chairman of the RSAI by the Government in 2006. The RSAI had played a very significant role, under Gay’s leadership, in changing attitudes to driving through their TV campaign, changes in the Driver Education regime, the introduction of mobile speed cameras etc.”
Mr. Heffernan also thanked Joe Quinn, Brendan Power, Micheál Gleeson, and Michael O’Gorman for the work they do. He highlighted the role of the Garda Traffic Corps. “They are most often the first on the scene to deal with the consequences of dangerous driving and the ones who have to break bad news to family members,” said Principal Heffernan. He complimented the Abbey’s Transition Year Coordinator, Mr. J.J. Kennedy, for his work and the organisational skills that he brings to their Driving Programme.
Gay Byrne also addressed what he thought to be the two most significant cultural shifts he has witnessed in his lifetime. “The introduction of the smoking ban and the lowering to virtually zero of the drink driving limit.” He also told the students that a new driving license, similar to a Credit Card, would be introduced next January. Speaking to the boys in particular he stated, “There was clear medical evidence that the front area of the male brain developed more slowly than that of females and that is why there is so much risk-taking behaviour by young males.” “When you bring two pals with you in a car there is an 84% higher risk of an accident,” he said..
The new Chairman of the Abbey’s Board of Management, Mr. Michael Martin, made a presentation to Gay on behalf of everyone in the school. While surprised and touched Gay said he would prefer if the voucher could be raffled for a good cause in the school. The Chairman of South Tipperary County Council, Cllr. John Crosse and Mayor of Tipperary, Cllr. Ruaridhri Devitt, attended the event, as did members of the Abbey Board of Management and retired teachers.