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.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.