The training of 27 new driving examiners to deal with the backlog of cancelled tests in Northern Ireland cannot be fast-tracked, the infrastructure minister has insisted.
Nichola Mallon said while securing test dates for thousands of learner drivers impacted by the Covid -19 pandemic was a priority, road safety had to come first.
The pandemic has led to several period when driving tests have been cancelled while driving instructors have been forced to halt work multiple times due to the close contact nature of their job.
It has led to a backlog of thousands of tests.
A number of MLAs pressed Ms Mallon on the situation during Assembly question time on Tuesday.
Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs told the minister it was “disappointing” the time it was taking to recruit extra examiners.
“Does she agree that the time taken for the recruitment process is excessive and that, given these exceptional circumstances, the process needs to be speeded up so that key workers, young people and members of the public who need a driving test can be facilitated by trained instructors in a timely manner?” he asked.
The minister replied: “We are recruiting 27 permanent and temporary examiners.
“We are working off a merit list for a number of those, but we also have to make sure that all those who are recruited are fully trained.
“These driving examiners are taking pupils out, and we need to make absolutely sure that they are trained because this is a road safety issue.
“We are, of course, trying to do things as efficiently and effectively as we can, but it is always about balancing that with my statutory responsibility for ensuring road safety.”