I would first note that the Deputy appears to make a mistaken assumption regarding the nature and outcome driving tests. As a rigorous test of competence, intended to protect drivers as well as other road users, nobody can or should expect to demonstrate that competence and so qualify for a full driving licence purely because they have taken a test. It is therefore incorrect to say that anyone who has had a test cancelled due to the COVID19 emergency would otherwise have had the means to drive themselves.
The RSA has been working, in consultation with my Department, on plans for the resumption of the range of services and functions for which it is responsible, following the publication of the Government roadmap and, more recently, the National Return to Work Safety Protocol as agreed by employer and trade union representatives.
The resumption of driver testing raises particular problems in terms of compliance with the Protocol and in particular social distancing rules, as it requires the driver tester and the candidate to be within a two metre distance continuously for a period in excess of 20 minutes, in a very confined space which is not in itself a workplace under the control of the RSA.
I appreciate that the inability to carry out driving tests is among the many difficulties that we all are having to endure at this time, for those awaiting such tests. On a very preliminary appraisal of the Protocol, car driving tests may have to be the last of the statutory functions, for which the RSA is responsible, to recommence in or after Phase 4 of the Government's roadmap.
Dates for the resumption of the driving test, and any special arrangements which will need to be put into place to allow for the provision of the service will be determined in consultation with the relevant health authorities.
The safety of the public is of paramount importance at this time, whether from infection or from deaths and injuries on the road, and in this as in all aspects of the Covid-19 crisis, my Department will be guided by NPHET and national experts.