As the Deputy will appreciate, the Covid-19 crisis has had a significant impact on all aspects of our public services, including the National Driver Licence Service.
In 2019, the National Driver Licence Service was not deemed to be essential by Government, and was closed from March to June. This inevitably led to a backlog in the processing of licence applications.
The NDLS resumed services in June, but with reduced capacity, due to the need to comply with Covid-19 pandemic restrictions and to ensure that both customers and staff are kept as safe as possible. All appointments must be booked in advance as it is not possible to facilitate any walk-ins due to the social distancing requirements and in the interest of protecting the staff and customers.
The RSA has worked with their providers to create additional capacity through a combination of additional staff, extended and additional operating hours (i.e. Sundays where needed), and the provision of overtime. The RSA has also expanded the online application facility to accommodate all driving licence and learner permit applications for those with a verified MyGovID account (which requires a Public Services Card in order that identify can be validated). Drivers over 70 can now apply for their licences by post.
In the most recent Covid-19 restrictions, the National Driver Licence Service has not been deemed to be an essential service. Therefore, front office appointments can only be made by essential workers.
These unavoidable circumstances as outlined above, which are necessary to protect public health, have led to a huge increase in queries and questions from members of the public. The NDLS is endeavouring to keep up with these queries, but has advised that lengthy delays can be expected for anyone wishing to speak directly to an advisor.
Instead, members of the public are advised that the NDLS website ndls.ie contains all that a licence applicant may need to know, and they are asked to seek information from there in the first instance. If their question remains unanswered, they can email firstname.lastname@example.org where their query will be responded to.
Due to the resurgence of Covid-19 in Europe as well as Ireland, possible further extensions ofdriving licences are currently under consideration at EU level. A decision on this issue is expected shortly.