TOUGH new rules to come into effect from next month will make it more difficult for motorists to get disabled driver parking permits, the Irish Independent has learned.
Medical information will be sought from GPs under the new rules, which are being introduced after the number of people with disabled parking permits soared in recent years.
As many as 80,000 people are allowed to park in the reserved spaces.
However, from June 1 the eligibility criteria will be tightened, making it harder for people with lesser disabilities to secure a permit.
It follows a review that found that those with severe mobility problems often had difficulty finding a space.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Transport last night said one of the conclusions of the review was that there had been a significant increase in the number of permits issued. And she added this number was continuing to rise, putting pressure on those with "severe mobility restrictions".
The spokeswoman said: "It is for this reason that the review recommended revising the eligibility criteria in order to ensure that in future only those with serious mobility impairments will qualify for permits.
"Holders of primary medical certificates and those officially certified as blind will continue to qualify automatically."
No current disabled parking permits will be withdrawn.
However, holders will need to satisfy the more stringent criteria when they come up for renewal.
The Irish Wheelchair Association and the Disabled Drivers Association of Ireland will continue to be the issuing authorities for disabled driver permits.
Applicants can continue to apply to either of these bodies and provide a declaration of personal details. From next month GPs will be requested to provide medical information.
Tony Maher, who is in charge of the transport division with the Irish Wheelchair Association, said that people with minor cardiovascular problems or stiffness in the joints were likely to be excluded under the new tightened-up criteria.
He said there had to be more enforcement by gardai and traffic wardens to stamp out the abuse of these parking spaces.