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25 May 2022

Loss of Laois driving licence walk-in service 'a retrograde step'

Loss of Laois driving licence walk-in service 'a retrograde step'

People can no longer walk in to the Laois National Drivers Licence Service without making an appointment first.

The loss of a walk-in services has been criticised as 'a retrograde step' by Laois Offaly TD Brian Stanley.

The centre serving Laois is at Portlaoise Shopping Centre. Now the public must either make an appointment over the phone, or online before they can walk in. If they want to do so online, they have to possess a Public Service Card.

Sinn Féin Deputy Stanley has accused the Road Safety Authority (RSA) of "deliberately using Covid to downgrade services".

"This is not acceptable. It needs to be reinstated," he said.

He is reacting to the statement last week by Minister of State for Transport Hildegard Naughton in the Dáil that the walk-in service at NDLS in Laois Shopping Centre is to be terminated. 

“All NDLS centres are operating as normal to the public nationwide. Appointments must be booked to attend an NDLS centre and are made available through the booking system online at www.ndls.ie or by telephone at 0818 919 090. Appointments are booked in 10 minute slots and customers can be assured of the service within their allotted time. The front office provider which was put in place in 2021 will no longer offer a walk-in service," Minister Naughton said.

Dep Stanley compares the move to banks closing down branches during Covid-19.

“Walk in services were understandably suspended during the pandemic. The Banks received a lot of criticism over closing local branches and removing face to face services and now a Government body are doing it. This is a retrograde step."

Meanwhile people must have a Public Service Card to use the website.

"The statement by the Minister that the people can go onto Government website which requires a Public Service Card is not on. Firstly, not everyone has access to online or may not have a computer, and secondly public service cards are not available to all the population. In any case the Data Protection Commissioner has ruled that Public Service Card does not have any legal basis for accessing State Services.

"The Government need to reinstate full walk-in services or transfer the service back to Laois County Council motor tax office, where it operated efficiently up to a few years ago. The other alternative which I have proposed to successive Ministers in the past is to use the local Post Office service network to issue driving licence as is the case in other jurisdictions.

"People who are not online or the elderly are entitled to have an accessible service available. Otherwise, the Government commitments regarding social inclusion are hollow,’ he said.

Last week a County Clare TD said his constituents have faced problems using the booking system.  

Deputy Michael McNamara informed the Minister that a woman in her 80’s had told him she spent an hour and a half on the phone trying in vain to get an appointment. The TD’s office rang the NDLS and spent 45 minutes waiting but nobody answered.

Another constituent took time out of work to attend his appointment in the NDLS Centre in Ennis and his paperwork was in order – only to discover that the staff would not accept cash from him and he did not have a card. He rang his wife for card details but this would not be accepted as his wife was not present. Read more below.

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