Kerry Independent TD Danny Healy-Rae has accused the Government of "making a smithereens" out of the social fabric of rural Ireland.

He said there has been a huge mental health impact on people in rural communities because pubs have closed down in every town and village and people are being told not to drive cars.

Speaking during Leaders' Questions in the Dáil, he said: "You want to stop people farming, you don't want them eating meat, you don't want them cutting turf or timber to keep themselves warm," he said in the Dáil. 

Tougher drink driving laws contained in the Road Traffic Bill mean people are afraid to leave their homes, he said.

"The Irish pub is known all around the world as a tourist attraction; a place of culture; traditional music song and dance and storytelling; a place where farmers and workers meet to have a conversation; rich with characters who provided original entertainment", he said.

Deputy Healy-Rae said people like Tom Cruise visited Loo Bridge pub outside Kilgarvan and Kenmare "sadly he can't visit it again because it is closed.

"Many cities around the world have tried to replicate the Irish country pub. People all around the country are now afraid to move out and are isolated in their homes."  

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said the description given did not sound like the Kerry he knew, which, he said, is a vibrant place that attracts hordes of tourists.

"The attitude you try to bring in to the House in terms of trying to return to some kind of old Ireland that was better because people could get in to their cars regardless of whether they had been drinking or not, regardless of whether they represent a danger on the road, is just blatant irresponsible nonsense quite frankly," he said.

"There is rural isolation, which is something the Government is responding to, that is why we are spending billions on rural broadband. 

"Rural Ireland is changing and the idea that we are somehow going to keep hope alive by allowing people to drink and drive on their local roads as a way of reducing isolation in rural Ireland to my mind is just irresponsible and won't work."