Cross-border penalty points delayed
OBTAINING powers to hit motorists north and south of the Border with penalty points requires a lot more work and negotiation, the Taoiseach admitted last night.
The Government had hoped to clamp down on the thousands of motorists who escape penalty points here every year simply because they do not have an Irish driving licence.
But options to ensure that driving offences can attract penalties in different jurisdictions were still being explored and had not yet been finalised, Brian Cowen said after a meeting of the British-Irish Council in Guernsey, in the Channel Islands.
Securing mutual recognition of driving disqualifications has taken up much of the council's work on the issue. If the governments can find agreement, a driver who is disqualified in Britain, for example, would not be able to get a driving licence in Ireland.
In the long term, somebody caught speeding in the Republic, but from Northern Ireland, would also be liable for penalty points. Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson said the mutual recognition plans are a "commonsense approach" and leaders were agreed in principle to "moving in this direction". He said the issue would be discussed at July's North-South ministerial council meeting.
A more cautious Mr Cowen said the British, Irish and Northern Ireland governments were not yet near signing off on a penalty points agreement.
"We're not at the point of making a decision, which will enable us to say that all of this can be co-ordinated. "That will require a lot of discussions between us," he said.
This week's introduction of new legislation on drink-driving limits and the European award for reducing deaths on Irish roads shows the Government's seriousness in tackling the issue of road safety, he said. "There is no room for complacency or self-congratulation about it."
Yesterday's meeting was attended by Communications Minister Eamon Ryan, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Paterson, Mr Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.