The operation of the driver testing service is the statutory responsibility of the Road Safety Authority (RSA), and I have referred the latter part fo the question regarding numbers of persons waiting for a test to the Authority for direct reply. I would ask the Deputy to contact my office if a response is not received within ten days.
On the wider question, the driver testing service resumed on 29 June for certain classes of vehicles on 29 June, and for the remainder, including cars, from mid-July. The service is facing significant limts on capacity due to the need to comply with health restrictions. Before the pandemic driver testers were conducting 8 tests each per day. On resumption it was 5. I am happy to be able to report that this was increased to 6 from 14 September, and may be increased to 7 later, subject as always to health and safety concerns.
The RSA has further submitted proposals to my Department in order to address the backlog, which are currently being carefully considered in my Department. As the Deputy rightly indicates, increases in capacity will be key to addressing the problem. This will include increases in tester numbers and in testing facilities. My Department has already approved the rehire of temporary testers whose contracts had expired and retention of contracted testers otherwise due to leave in the next two months. Hiring of further permanent testers would take time, both for the hiring process and for training of those hired.
I should caution that there will be no quick or easy or solution to these difficulties. The RSA has indicated that it is currently receiving more applications than capacity, and it will take time to get on top of and reduce the backlog. My Department will continue to work with the RSA to see that this essential public service is delivered in as timely a way as possible, within overarching health protections.