As the Deputy will be aware, historically Ireland has not issued driving licences to asylum seekers.
The court ruling earlier this year stating that asylum seekers may work while awaiting the outcome of their asylum applications has little or no direct relevance to driver licensing law. The two issues are legally quite distinct, and the court ruling does not change the position.
I have however asked my officials to re-examine the question of whether we should issue driving licences to asylum seekers, as I know some EU member states do. The matters at issue in the case of driver licences for asylum seekers are matters of both EU and national driver licensing law. I understand, based on legal advice, that it would be possible to issue asylum seekers with driving licences and I would be happy to consider that once other matters are resolved.
The other matters relate to the integrity of the driver licensing system. Driving licences allow people to drive but they are also widely used as proof of identity in other circumstances. It is a core component of the driver licensing system that the identity of applicants has to be verified. The Government's policy is that identity for applicants for licences should be verified to what is called the Standard Authentication Framework Environment, SAFE 2 standard. It would not be acceptable to issue driving licences to some people only if they meet this standard of ID verification while allowing others to receive a licence without meeting this standard. I appreciate that some asylum seekers will not be able to verify their ID to this level.
Finally, we have to consider what will happen if an asylum seeker receives a driving licence and is subsequently turned down for asylum. It will be necessary to have a mechanism in place so that the Road Safety Authority, RSA, as the national driver licensing authority, can be notified immediately and can cancel the licence.
I have written to my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality, regarding these issues. When the issues concerned have been resolved, I will be happy to consider issuing driving licences to asylum seekers. I shall consider the situation further when these matters have been addressed.