Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley has criticised Minister Eamon Ryan for ‘the chaos his lack of action and difficulties he has caused for those trying to learn to drive’.
The Laois TD’s comments come as figures released to Sinn Féin show 1,100 people are now waiting for a driving test in Laois while 3,993 people are on the theory test list in the county.
Our neighbours in Offaly do not fare much better.
The number awaiting driving tests in Offaly is 1,889 with Birr having 762 while 1,127 are waiting in Tullamore. The amount of people awaiting a theory test in Tullamore is 1,521.
Deputy Stanley said: “Last year we warned Minister Ryan his lack of preparation and planning for driving tests was going to cause chaos during 2021.
“Unfortunately, this has now transpired, with what must be a record of 225,000 people nationally currently waiting on a driving test or theory test.
“In Laois/Offaly a total of 2989 people are waiting for a driving test, while a further 5514 are waiting for a theory test.
“This time last year, Sinn Féin called for additional testers to be hired to help address the growing backlog, but it took months for the Minister to grant approval for the 80 extra testers the RSA themselves requested. I raised this again in the Dáil recently.
“They are still not in place. In November we asked the Minister to put the theory test online, but it took until June of this year to bring in a restricted pilot scheme.
“Universities were able to immediately switch to online exams during the pandemic, but no action was taken by Minister Ryan on this front.
“It’s simply not good enough. These issues were foreseeable, but a lack of action and initiative from the Minister has allowed waiting lists escalate to a point never seen before.
“The Minister seems to have been asleep at the wheel for most of the past year. He showed no interest in what was clearly becoming an enormous problem.”
Mr Stanley explained how younger people are disproportionately affected by this and called for action.
He said: “It is predominantly young people affected by these delays, which is having a massive impact on their lives.
“The delays are impacting their employment opportunities and will become a major problem for many as they return to college in September. Young people deserve better.
“We need to increase testing and theory testing capacity immediately. This should include the fast-track recruitment of staff, longer opening hours, and the establishment of pop-up centres where necessary.”