The Deputy will be aware that, like her, I am very conscious of the case for taking steps to regulate the operation of rickshaws or to curtail their activities. She will also be aware that my Department is deeply engaged in working out whether and how the problems that have been identified in connection with rickshaws could be addressed or regulated in a meaningful and legally-robust way that is also proportionate, effective and cost-efficient. She was part of the very useful and extensive discussion we had about this two weeks ago at a meeting of the Joint Committee on Transport, Tourism and Sport. The choice is simple. Rickshaws can be banned, left as they are or regulated. Banning them is one option, as is regulating. Leaving matters as they are is not an option.
As rickshaws are vehicles that operate on the public road, regulation requires us to consider the matter in the context of the Road Traffic Acts in the first instance. Given the extensive record of litigation under those Acts, we must be very exact in terms of how we define a vehicle as a basis for developing new laws. The NTA advises that a pedal-powered rickshaw can be converted to a motorised one within minutes by attaching a small motor and that the motor can also be removed just as quickly. However, the provisions of the Road Traffic Acts are clear in distinguishing mechanically-propelled vehicles from others. There would be a very different set of requirements for a motorised rickshaw - because it would be regarded as a mechanically-propelled vehicle - than those that would apply in the case of a non-motorised rickshaw or bicycle.
While it may not be impossible, it is clear that a significant impediment in this context relates to the ability to develop new legislation that can be enforced in any meaningful way – especially given the ability to switch from being one type of vehicle to another at such speed.
In the international context, the position is not absolute. There are EU member states where, like Ireland, rickshaws are not regulated at all. There are some where rickshaws are subject to regulation or where legislation is currently under development. In many cases where regulation has been introduced, this has often happened at local or municipal level.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
The Deputy will be aware that the tradition across Europe demonstrates a model with stronger powers and functions at municipal level than is the case in Ireland. The question of regulation at local level has also been considered here. While some would favour that approach, there are also matters to be considered in terms of the powers currently available for local authorities, particularly the question as to what extent those powers could be used to ensure effective enforcement.
As I said when I appeared before the joint committee recently, I am putting the rickshaw industry on notice that I will be deciding very shortly as regards the introduction either of an outright prohibition or a new regulatory framework for rickshaws. While the preferred approach at present is an outright ban, I am aware that this option is not entirely without obstacles. My Department is engaging with the Office of the Attorney General to consider any blockages which might arise, including how best to weigh and balance private interests in the context of the public good. Once consultations with the Office of the Attorney General are complete, I expect to be in a position to finalise and announce my decision before the end of this Dáil term.