Call for Dempsey to consider position
There have been calls for Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey to consider his position following his announcement to exempt 122,000 learner drivers from road safety laws due to take force this week.
The deferral will exempt learner drivers who are currently awaiting a driving test from having to comply with the new regulation until June 2008.
Minister Dempsey announced this afternoon that he had postponed a provision which stated that drivers holding a second provisional licence would have to be accompanied at all times by a current full licence holder with two years' experience.
Fine Gael's Transport Spokesman, Fergus O'Dowd said: "The Minister's embarrassing u-turn today to delay in the introduction of new regulations on provisional drivers until next June, while ultimately welcome, is just the latest episode in this shambolic affair."
"Coming hot on the heels of the Shannon debacle the time has now come for Minister Dempsey to consider his position. In addition the Taoiseach should now be considering whether or not he still believes that Noel Dempsey is competent enough to retain the position he currently holds," he added.
Speaking on RTÉ radio this afternoon, Mr Dempsey stressed that although there was strong support for the proposed reforms to improve road safety, there were also calls for a reasonable lead-in time to enable people to prepare for and take their test, or to make alternative arrangements.
Mr Dempsey said he had listened to the debate and was postponing the provision until the 30th of June "to make sure that they have plenty of notice".
The minister has faced intensive criticism after he announced the measure last week with the publication of the new Road Safety Strategy.
Labour Party Spokesman on Transport Tommy Broughan described the move as "a humiliating u-turn".
He said the principal responsibility for "this fiasco" must rest with Minister Dempsey, who he claimed "has damaged the new Road Safety Strategy, put the Gardaí in an impossible position and caused needless distress to young drivers and their families."
The Minister confirmed that the new learner permit system will still come into force this week. "As and from Tuesday next, any new applicant for a driving licence will get a driver permit.
Chief Executive of the Road Safety Authority Noel Brett confirmed the move and said the RSA already has in place the necessary driving testing capacity to ensure that current driving test applicants registered up to last Thursday will be offered a driving test by March 2008.
There are currently more than 425,000 provisional licence holders in the state with 209,253 first time holders, 121,871 on their second, 31,792 on their third, 25,076 on their forth and 37,233 on their fifth or subsequent.