A SYSTEMS breakdown at the national driving licence service in Skibbereen resulted in 10 or more people waiting for hours in close proximity without having their appointments met.
The people – some of whom travelled from Cork and Castletownbere – to have their licences renewed complained about the way they were treated on the day, Tuesday, December 22nd.
Some people described it as ‘unprofessional’ saying they were given little or no explanation, or recourse, other than to call the national hotline.
Others were deeply concerned that having so many people in such close proximity was a breach of the Covid-19 guidelines.
One woman, Amy Moy, a US citizen living in Kilcrohane, said it was a cold and wet day and the waiting area – a long hallway outside the office – was not heated so the applicants congregated near the lighted entrance as they waited for updates.
Amy Moy said she had an appointment to renew her learner’s permit. but she was not dealt with on the day. Amy rang The Southern Star from the building and, after Christmas, was offered a rescheduled appointment for December 30th.
‘We came in, we waited for about three hours before it closed, and we left with nothing,’ said Amy, whose husband and toddler were waiting outside in the car in freezing conditions.
A few former UK residents were anxious about not being able to swap their British licences for an Irish one because failure to do so before the end of 2020 could mean having to sit a driving test in the new year.
Donal Arnold said he felt frustrated after he made a four-hour round trip from East Cork to Skibbereen, but he confirmed that he was contacted after Christmas and offered another appointment.
‘I need to renew my artic licence as a matter of urgency for work,’ he said. ‘On the day, we were frustrated because we had our paperwork in order. It was an IT problem on the part of the NDLS that caused the problem. That’s something the NDLS should rectify.’
Nora Callaghan, who is over 70 and living in an isolated area in Castletownbere, said she had tremendous difficulty securing an appointment for December 22nd and wasn’t going to give it up lightly.
‘I stayed because appointments are so hard to secure. The whole episode was a disaster, and there was not one word of an apology,’ she said. After Christmas, Nora was also given another appointment for the NDLS in Skibbereen.
The Road Safety Authority, in a statement, acknowledged that there was an issue with ICT connectivity in Skibbereen on Tuesday, December 22nd.
‘This lasted just over an hour and this meant we could not serve customers with appointments during that period. Customers with an appointment for a time after the connectivity issue was resolved were prioritised and their application processed.
‘It did mean that some customers who were not served on the day were understandably frustrated. The officer on duty did update customers as best as possible, but given need for social distancing and the fact that some customers presented who did not have an appointment it was challenging to manage the situation.
‘We apologise for the frustration and inconvenience caused to customers and we have been in touch with all customers, except four, who did not respond to our call. We will prioritise all those impacted in the coming days.’