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Doctors in Irish Republic urge politicians to follow Northern Ireland lead on helmet compulsion

Comments reignite helmet debate in the Republic

Following last week’s news that he Northern Ireland Assembly had voted through the second reading of a private member’s bill proposing that cycle helmets be made compulsory in the province, a member of the medical profession in the Republic of Ireland is calling on politicians there to follow suit.

Speaking to the Irish Medical Times, Dr Fenton Howell, a past president of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) said that the medical group would favour a similar law being introduced in the Republic.

“Best evidence supports the use of bicycle helmets for the prevention of acquired brain injuries, similar to motorcyclists,” claimed Doctor Howell, adding, “They reduce the risk and severity of head injuries.”

Dr Howell added that in 2001, the IMO’s annual general meeting had passed a motion backing compulsory helmets for cyclists, the vote taken in the face of opposition from the Galway Cycling Campaign, which argued that the protection afforded by helmets was limited, that compulsion could deter people from cycling, and that if incorrectly fitted, they could even present a safety hazard due to the risk of strangulation.

Dr Howell's comments wil reignite the helmet debate in the Republic and, as in Northern Ireland, his proposals are certain to meet with opposition from cycling campaigners.

The Irish Medical Times added that last week, on the same day that politicians in Northern Ireland were voting on helmet compulsion, the IMO beat 700 other organisations to a prize awarded by the European Road Safety Charter as a result of its efforts to improve road safety.

Current IMO president Sean Tierney described the organisation’s road safety campaign as being “founded in the experience of doctors who work to save those with horrific injuries, try to rebuild the bodies and lives of those with disabilities, and to comfort and counsel families with unbearable loss”.

Voters in the Republic of Ireland are due to go to the polls a fortnight this Friday following the request earlier this month by Taoiseach Brian Cowen to President Mary McAleese to dissolve his government.

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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