A Fermanagh councillor has spoken out against the lack of a theory driving test centre in the county as the demand for the test remains.

Councillor Chris McCaffrey, Sinn Fein, has questioned why Fermanagh does not get one when a centre is to be opened in Ballymena to help alleviate current demand.

The company that administered the tests in Omagh, Pearson VUE, will no longer deliver the theory test after September 3 when its contract ends.

From September 6, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) will administer and deliver theory tests in Northern Ireland on behalf of the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA), and the new booking service opened on July 19.

“At a meeting last month I received a response from the Infrastructure Minister, Nichola Mallon, stating that while additional appointments would soon be available at the Omagh theory test centre, there would be nothing available until after September 7, which is a completely ridiculous situation to leave the people of Fermanagh in,” said Councillor McCaffrey

“Nichola Mallon has done nothing to help Fermanagh motorists, whether that be learner drivers or those seeking to regain their licences.

“The same response also explained that an additional centre had been opened in Ballymena to alleviate the current demand, which I think is absolutely insulting to Fermanagh and our wider Council district.

“This simply isn’t good enough. In what way, shape or form does that centre in one of the northeasternmost towns on the island help anyone in Fermanagh?

“It is a 100-mile trip each way for people here – a two-hour drive for those able to get a lift, in a county with next to no public transport.

“It is quite clear that the Minister did not ‘rural-proof’ the idea for opening this additional centre, and her mentioning of it in her response also shows that she doesn’t care, and that she expects people from Fermanagh to travel over four hours – or even longer, for those using public transport – in order to do a short driving theory test!

“It is discriminatory towards Fermanagh people and our rural county.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Infrastructure said the new theory test centres will remain in towns and cities as before, but will be located at different premises.

“These locations were developed to provide the best balance between accessibility and value for money for customers, and the current site in Omagh was chosen for its central location in Tyrone and Fermanagh.

“The DVA will continue to monitor the demand for theory tests and will work with DVSA to make additional slots available, as required.”

Councillor McCaffrey proposed that Fermanagh and Omagh District Council write to Minister Mallon to reinforce the demand for a theory centre service to be provided for Fermanagh, and that this service should go in-house and be run by the Department of Infrastructure, instead of passing the buck to another contractor.

“It is time that Fermanagh had our theory test service. The Minister is well able to bring a centre here, and I am currently awaiting another response from Nichola Mallon on this issue,” concluded Councillor McCaffrey.