Breen welcomes agreement between Ireland and Ontario on exchange of driving licences

October 29th, 2014 - Pat Breen

Chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade and Clare T.D. Pat Breen has today (Wednesday) welcomed the initiation of an agreement which allows for the mutual exchange of driving licences between Ireland and the Canadian province of Ontario.

“ I have made extensive representations on behalf of the many Irish people living in Ontario and Canada in relation to the mutual exchange of driving licences for both Irish people living in Canada and Canadian people living here.

“The agreement provides that the holder of a full Irish driving licence can automatically exchange this licence for an Ontario licence if they are resident in the province of Ontario. The reverse will apply also where the holder of a valid Ontario licence, resident in this country, can exchange their licence for an Irish driving licence without the need to undergo a driving test. This will be of enormous benefit to the many Irish citizens currently living and working in Ontario, as well as to people from Ontario now living and working in Ireland.

“This is great news for the many Irish people living and working in Ontario who have contacted me in the past in relation to this issue. Irish people living in Ontario, will be now be able to exchange their Irish driving licences for Ontario licences directly, rather than beginning as learner drivers in Ontario.

“The process of reaching this agreement involved a great deal of work, and I would like to acknowledge the efforts of all those who have made the agreement possible including the Minister for Transport, Paschal Donohoe, the Road Safety Authority and the Irish Embassy in Canada, as well as the authorities in Ontario. I would hope that in due course a similar agreement will be signed with other Canadian States.”

ENDS

See Previous Parliamentary Question Below for your information.

Parliamentary Question – Oireachtas
 
To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the concern among the Irish community in Canada in relation to the wait in reaching agreement with various Canadian provinces as regards driving licence exchange; and if he will provide an update on this matter. – Pat Breen.

* For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 27th May, 2014.
Ref No: 23043/14

REPLY

I am deeply conscious of the unease within the Irish community in Canada about the lack of reciprocal arrangements with the various Canadian Provinces, each of which is responsible for regulating and issuing licences to motorists resident within its own jurisdiction.
The lack of such agreements with Ireland can have the effect of restricting the opportunities for employment for holders of Irish drivers’ licences in Canada. This is particularly important to us given the large number of Irish people moving to Canada in 2014. A number of other EU jurisdictions, including Northern Ireland, have such agreements with several of the Canadian provinces and I strongly support efforts to achieve similar rights for the holders of Irish driving licences.
Our Ambassador in Ottawa, Ray Basset, is in constant contact with the Irish community in Canada, and he has relayed to me their concerns about the lack of reciprocity. I have instructed him and his staff to continue to do all within their power to identify through their local contacts and experience any way in which matters may be brought forward more quickly.
In this regard our Embassy in Ottawa is working closely with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, under whose aegis the Road Safety Authority is conducting the negotiations for Ireland. The Embassy will continue to offer their advice and support to the negotiations, as well as communicating with the Irish community to ensure that they have access to accurate information.
Ministerial responsibility for the conclusion of these agreements lies with the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. I know that the Minister answered a Written Parliamentary Question from the Deputy on 13 May on the progress of negotiations. I can provide no further update on that, but I do wish to assure the Deputy that the needs of Irish communities abroad in this regard are very much understood and that the Embassy will continue to do everything within its power to support a positive outcome.

Dáil Question
No: 270

To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the reason for the delay in reaching agreement with Canadian provinces regarding driving licence exchange, which would allow Irish emigrants travelling to Canada to exchange their Irish licence to one of their respective Canadian province; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Pat Breen.
* For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 13th May, 2014.
 
 
Ref No:
21065/14

Answered by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport
Leo Varadkar

REPLY

Agreements on mutual recognition of driving licences involve very detailed negotiations.  On the Irish side, these negotiations are undertaken by the Road Safety Authority (RSA).  In Canada, each individual province is responsible for its own driver licensing rules.  The RSA has therefore been in negotiations with the various provinces in Canada, with a priority given to reaching an agreement with Ontario.
 
Reaching such an agreement is not only a matter of facilitating the exchange of licences by Irish residents in Canada or by Canadian residents in Ireland. Rather it also involves both sides ensuring that the people licenced to drive in the other jurisdiction are properly qualified.  As a result, when Ireland makes agreements of this kind with other jurisdictions, we require, as a standard component of the agreement, that we will not accept for exchange licences issued by the other jurisdiction if those licences were in turn derived from an exchange with a third country with which we do not have an exchange relationship.
 
I understand from the RSA that most issues have been agreed with Ontario, but that the issue of licences based on exchange for a third country licence has delayed matters.  My Department is aware of this, and has been in communication with the embassy in Ottawa in order to explore ways of overcoming this.
 
I remain keen to see exchange agreements reached with the Canadian provinces, as soon as possible.