Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Driving Centres.

1.

asked the Minister for the Environment if his attention has been drawn to the situation whereby the lease on the building occupied by the Killarney driving centre has expired and the testers were required to vacate the premises six weeks ago, and if he will indicate where these testers are now based and where applicants in this area can now undergo the test.

2.

asked the Minister for the Environment the number of driving centres in the country, the number with telephones directly installed and a separate telephone number accredited to the driving centre, and the number obliged to use telephones with the compliments of other organisations in whose name these telephones are registered.

I propose with the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, to take Questions Nos. 1 and 2 together.

The number of driving test centres is 47. Telephones are installed in nine centres. There are no official arrangements for the use of telephones at other centres on the lines mentioned by the Deputy. In this connection, I would remind the Deputy that appointments, cancellations, and so on, are effected through headquarters.

The conduct of driving tests in Killarney is temporarily in abeyance but new accommodation for a test centre has been procured and will shortly be ready for use. Meanwhile, any applicants who urgently desire a driving test can be accommodated at Tralee, if they so wish.

Would the Minister not accept that the facilities for driving tests are inadequate and that his response does not recognise that inadequacy? I am not saying that he is exclusively responsible for the situation, but would he not agree that it is extraordinary that Killarney of all places, which is the home of the Minister of State for the Environment, has been left in the ludicrous position of being evicted from premises which it should have been able to retain?

What happened in Killarney was that an eviction order was served on the Board of Works. No time has been lost in procuring alternative accommodation. It is expected that the alternative accommodation should be available for use within four weeks.

The Minister stated that out of 47 centres only nine have direct telephone facilities. I accept that appointments are made through the central office but the reality is that people try to contact their local centres. My information is that all sorts of Micky-Mouse arrangements exist whereby people are ringing the office next door or the office upstairs to try and contact the driving centre. Would the Minister not agree that, if we are to avoid a repetition of the unfortunate backlog that occurred in the past, the provision of the balance of 30 telephones is necessary?

Telephones have been provided in nine centres. As the Deputy probably knows, most test centres are manned only during the period of testing, which may be once a week or once in two weeks. The nine regional centres have telephones and there are extensions from Council switchboards in a few others like Letterkenny. That is the position at the moment. If all the centres had telephones it would be on a temporary basis because they are manned only for a short time.

Does the Minister regard the present situation as satisfactory?

I suppose it is not satisfactory but it is an improvement to have them at regional level.

Will the Minister continue the improvement?