Dáil debates

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Topical Issue Debate

National Car Test

10:15 pm

Photo of Timmy DooleyTimmy Dooley (Clare, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

At the outset, I am disappointed by the way Topical Issues has been put to the end of the day's business. The introduction of the Topical Issue Debate was about improving this House's communication with the public. Topical Issues was about identifying issues of real concern to people that would be tabled at a time of the day that would allow it fit in to the regular news cycle, and be used as a methodology of communicating with the people. I am disappointed with the way the business has been ordered today, but that is as an aside.

I thank the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Donohoe, for being here. I appreciate his presence for what I believe to be an important issue.

The Minister is correctly dealing with the issues around death and injury on the road. He correctly decided, in conjunction with the Road Safety Authority, to introduce increased penalty points and the introduction of penalty points for the first time for a number of offences that heretofore were dealt with differently. It is part of a progressive and multilayered approach in this House to dealing with death and injury on the road.

There is some difficulty with the choreography. It is putting the cart before the horse. In my experience, across quite a number of NCT test centres, a delay exists in scheduling such tests. It can vary. In some instances, the delay can be up to four months. In others, it can be three months. Of course, there are areas where it is not quite so difficult to schedule a test.

The fact is, though, that there are drivers today who find themselves not having an NCT. They attempted to book a test a number of weeks ago and, because of the backlog of delays, now find themselves not only outside the law as they always would have been, but in a position where there is a potential to gain penalty points. That is particularly worrying and disturbing. I accept that discretion can be exercised by gardaí but the introduction of these penalty points offences should not have taken place until such time as there was a relatively quick turnaround in providing citizens with access to an appropriate test. That is the first point.

In addition, the Minister will be aware of an issue that has arisen in relation to penalty points. We read with concern about it today on the front page of the Irish Independent, where the journalist, Mr. Niall O'Connor, has a story which seems to emanate from within the Department. It is irrelevant where it emanated from. It seems to be a serious issue. The Minister indicated he has referred this issue to the Attorney General and that in due course he will have some information.

Before the Attorney General comes back to the Minister, can Deputy Donohoe tell the House tonight what is the genesis of the problem that has raised his concerns? What is the extent of the problem? What is the scale of it? How many penalty points are involved here? How many drivers potentially have issues, either positive or negative from their perspective?

How many drivers are affected? What is the Minister's perception of the impact of such a problem, if it exists? I accept and understand that the Minister is waiting for the advice of the Attorney General to establish whether there is an issue in the first instance, but pending that, could he answer some of the questions I have raised in that regard?


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